Don’t ignore the quiet voices, they make a difference to your decision
March 5, 2015
I was once asked to reconsider a strategic decision. It entailed the relocation of our office and several of our staff were vehement to stay put. In fact, they were rather vociferous about the matter, threatening to quit the job if we made the 10km transition. The funny thing was – we were currently in a rundown, dilapidated office that went way past due. We were moving into a brand-spankingly new building and I thought that it would be a no-brainer to make the shift. Apparently, not so. It turned out that some of the staff created a whole ecosystem around the current office. After all, we were there 11 years! It was 11 years of building a comfortable life and lifestyle, and my business partner, afraid of losing staff, came back to me to reconsider the decision. He even went so far as to propose maintaining two offices!
I am not here to point fingers at my partner, nor am I here to air grievances about our staff. What I do want to talk about is how we have to maintain proper balance in our decisions. Here are three key considerations in maintaining this balance:
1. The intent of the decision
So why did we make the decision to move to a new location in the first place? Sure, workplace comfort was one of them, and the image of us moving into a newer – albeit smaller – office is a boost to our brand, but the main intent of the decision was to increase productivity. A significant number of clients are located within a 3-km radius of our new office that has an MRT station just a spitting distance away. This is a major contributory factor for our decision to move.
2. The voice of the silent
He who shouts loudest gets heard. It is very true that the negative cries seem to create an impression that everyone was against it. Yet, when we polled the staff, there was no more than 15% dissent. The silent majority, many of whom were actually looking forward to the shift, had been drowned out by the noisy minority. That created the false impression that everyone was against it. By listening to the silent, and giving them the “voice” that they lacked, we were able to balance the thinking, and make the right decision.
3. Metrics that mean something
One more important consideration – numbers. My business partner said, “Many of the staff are against the move.” When I asked, “How many?”, he answered, “Many.” How many is many? It was only until did a little song-and-dance about the new office, created a positive spin on productivity and conducted the poll did we uncover the silent majority. Metrics are very important to a decision. It is very difficult to make any serious decision without them. It was former GE boss, Jack Welch who said, “If we are going to make a decision based on gut, I’d rather use mine.”
Strategic decisions will always come under fire. Many people might question them, pour cold water over them, create uncertainty over them. This is to be expected. But if one stayed true to the intent, used metrics to poll the affected, and gave voice to the silent, you might see that there was no need to succumb to the noisy few who want to influence the silent many.