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Thanks for the original posting and the follow up. I currently work in the automotive industry in a Tier I supplier to mainly Japanese manufacturers. This is my first position in an automotive company, having been in other manufacturing (Fortune 250) companies. One of my MOST frustrating experiences during my new hire period was repeatedly hearing that my ideas wouldn't work because "we've done that xx years ago and it didn't work". It's a wonder the organization is still in business.

Wally Bock

Congratulations! This post was selected as one of the five best business blog posts of the week in my Three Star Leadership Midweek Review of the Business Blogs.

Wally Bock

Jason Yip

Broken link "The Auto Industry Bailout"

Jared Cosulich

I can't say I love this example. I'm sure it is more than exemplary of problems at many of these companies, just specifically I can't say for sure if this happened at a given organization it would necessarily mean that there were problems. If, in the process of trying to discover the right answer these teams flatly ignored any input from junior people then that is one thing, but even if they did not ignore the junior person I could easily imagine a situation where they still didn't get the right answer and it was not due to a lack of respect for junior people.

That said I also don't like the fact that there was a "right" answer, although that was probably necessary or the exercise would be pointless. I'm not sure I've ever been in a situation where there is a right and wrong answer. Which is generally how I try to encourage idea flow and opinions from junior people. Simply try to make them right. Challenge their ideas and recognize that chances are there are some good elements to an idea that was introduced by a smart junior person. Too often debates devolve into one answer vs. another answer, and most of the time both answers have interesting elements that are worth exploring...

Jay Godse

It goes without saying, that as a boss, you have to put away your own ego. This is easier said than done. A part of that means that you need to understand that when somebody challenges your idea, they are not necessarily challenging your authority. There are few bosses that have ever done that in my experience. To really facilitate open upward flow of uncomfortable information and ideas, you have to assume that they are not challenging your authority.

The second step involves soliciting uncomfortable ideas. I used to tell my team to tell me that my idea was a crock of poo if they thought so. The only caveat was that they had to have a plausible reason why they thought so. It facilitated a lot of good communication, because their reasons for justifying their thoughts brought out a lot of hidden assumptions and knowledge in the open. (That in itself led to better ideas).

The third part, which is very hard, is to get your team to trust you not to "slam" them when they do bring uncomfortable information to you, some of which shows that you as a boss have not done something right. That requires a lot of investment of time from the boss. In the majority of places, challenging a boss' idea or bringing uncomfortable information is a CLE (career limiting event).

Kennedy's way of solving this problem is easiest on the boss because the boss does not have to face challenges to his ideas directly, and no "thick skins" need to be grown.

Two of my bosses who exemplified this kind of approach were Dan W (now at Google) and Alex N (now at TMA Solutions). I think both of those organizations are doing well.

That's my 2 cents.

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