The Whistle- Blower – To rock the boat or not?….

There are businesses in which the main business is happening at multiple far off sites, the processes that go on are of extremely high stakes and environmentally sensitive & the processes depend upon automation as well as human factors.

The key decision makers and the main office teams have a few professionals who have experiences from the processes the company undertakes at the far off sites. But at one point the office-based staff increasingly start to be become disconnected from the ‘real feel’ of the process-sites.

One can name mining, transportation, offshore oil production businesses to name a few to be somewhat like these.

And then to bridge this gap some smart businesses appoint experienced personnel with strong sense of loyalty and fearlessness. These bridging-officers hold no-bars when it is necessary & put their foot down if required to save company from losses due to something related to the processes that the non professionals in the main office do not foresee or grasp. The stakes of letting the wrong or undesired process-detours being extremely high in terms of monetary losses, legal issues as well as the business reputation.

In all the round-up above one big factor that has been omitted is that of the‘office politics’ …. and to make the matters worse. the ‘office politics by the insecure employees’ !

It so happened in one case, that the office-staff remained focussed on ‘meeting the targets’ statistically. They started gathering data with ‘closed queries’ from the processes so that any other gaps and lapses never get identified or reported but they project the KPI-achievements smoothly.This in turn punched the board room presentations that were in today’s MBA oriented business culture a key factor! The presentations thus looked good and the investors and CFO’s  were kept happy albeit the data being ‘rigged’.

Consequently, the bridging-staff who also spend time on the process-sites as well as in the main-office started to see worrying-trends on the process-sites when a new technology was introduced. They realised that the actual implementation of the new Technology and its fool-proof usage were not matching the ‘on-paper’ milestones.

On many occasions the main office is forcing the process site-managers to declare that they have fully accomplished the workflow .. though in fact the processes are being handled in a haphazard way. The bridging-staff then start to see error-developments and the strong possibilities of accidents of catastrophic nature sooner or later.

Now, the main office middle-management staff who were in a tight alliance with each other started keeping the process-weaknesses hidden from the bridging-staff by reporting it as ‘normal’ . They did not allow the reports to reach the senior executive officers. They felt that such reports could only increase the work-loads.

The bridging-staff reported the error developments on-sites to the middle management in the main office. The main-office middle-management saw these reports as damaging to their departmental key processes. The bridging-staff in turn started to see this as a drop of guard against the possible mishap at the process sites.

Days and weeks passed and the bridging-officers started to see the site processes becoming complacent and supervisors at sites missing out on the error-chains being developed. The company’s process management-procedures detailed the need to report near-misses and also the need to verify the process by the senior supervisors, they tried to scale down the tones of the Bridging-officer’s reports on process sites lapses and near misses.

On one hand the number of process-lapses started increasing and they did not get reported because any query about the weaker areas of the process site operations had been omitted from the revised procedures made by the main office; secondly the middle management kept giving a rosy picture about the process-site conditions and new technology implementation. The reality being the bomb of mishaps at the process-site started to tick and nothing was being done to defuse this bomb !

If you are the bridging-officer between the main office and the process-site – what are your options? Report it? Stories of making such reports got being ridiculed.

The only option the bridging-office now had was to report this matter to the highest authority in the company risking a huge wrath by the middle-management for increasing their workload ….. in short, whistle-blowing ! quickly the bridging-officer in this case realised that there were many additional steps that needed to be addressed have not been commissioned … the risk is high to very high. Either report, whistle-blow or see the accident happening followed by ruining the entire company and its closure.

What to do then? Blow the whistle or not? ….. The bridging-officer in our sampled case decided to whistle-blow by by-passing all the middle managers …. The CEO paid attention to such a degree that the bridging-officer wondered why he delayed the whistle-blowing so long anyway ….. the middle management cornered the whistle-blowing bridging-officer who had made the choices and saved the company –   he was unafraid – he had seen through the entire business of the properly aligned, otherwise being risked to shut down.

His fearless yet profoundly thoughtful decision to whislte-blow helped save the business. The highest management appreciated and encouraged the bridging officers to continue to whistle-blow anytime if they felt it necessary … in the meantime this business survived while a few of their competitors do not.

The secrets of this business-survival was thus in their having capabilities and also the whistle-blowers who are never confused or afraid about ‘to whistle-blow or not’ !!

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