Never Say “Whatever It Takes”

“Whatever It Takesare the 3 most dangerous words any business leader can utter, and yet you hear the phrase all the time. The problem is that the leaders think they are saying one thing, but the rank and file employees hear something else entirely.

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When the boss says Whatever It Takes the employees hear “Nothing Else Matters” . Employees think they are being told to ignore any rules that will interfere with the target the boss has set. If you tell employees that they must hit a particular target like Sales or Profit or Production Units you are also threatening them that bad things will happen to them personally if that target is not met.

People do respond dramatically to the phrase “Whatever It Takes” . They do everything to hit the goal. They ignore safety rules. They ship product that has not passed quality inspection. The give credit lines to customers who will never be able to pay for the goods. They¬† circumvent government regulations. They over-ship customers.

Sometimes, despite all these shortcuts, employees still find that they have not reached the target the boss has set. Afraid of losing their jobs, people take the final step to meet the target.

They change the numbers.

When all else fails people will report what the bosses want to hear even if it is not true. They report sales were higher than they actually were. They stop reporting accidents or quality problems. They don’t write off bad debts. They falsify government reports. The employees don’t think of themselves as cheating. They think of themselves as doing “Whatever It Takes”.

They next time you see in the news that the government is investigating a company, or that there has been a major industrial accident, or that a firm’s stock suddenly plummets because its figures cannot¬† be trusted; you can be sure of one thing. Somewhere in the recent past a high level executive gave a rousing speech to the employees demanding that they all do “Whatever It Takes”.

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