I currently work for a large utility as a supply chain specialist. Our current regime of supply chain managers is mostly made up of “outsiders” which have very little experience with our corporation. These managers seem to be “gaming” the system in order to make themselves look good. The way we measure our supply chain performance (metrics) is being changed to make the numbers look better but there is no focus on improving our processes. I am concerned about this because our new V.P of Supply Chain is an individual who has a lot of outside industry experience but doesn’t have a history of staying around for a long period of time.
Recently, our Station’s Director of Supply Chain was removed and will be taking over an undisclosed position somewhere in the organization (our company usually doesn’t fire non performers). The Director’s replacement (who will report to the V.P) will be an individual who is part of the establishment (has had many management positions in our company) and I am wondering if it is likely that our established management team has concerns that “gaming” is taking place and wants someone they can trust to see what is going on.
In any case, I am wondering if you believe that it is a good strategy to do an end-round to the new director and discuss what I have witnessed and documented. I would have to by-pass two levels of management to do this. Can you outline for me the pros and cons of this strategy? Any help is appreciated.
Whistling My Time Away
OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY TIMOTHY JOHNSON
Dear Whistling My Time Away,
The short answer to your question is this:
The pro’s of bypassing two levels of management to go to a director is that you can fix an ongoing problem, be able to sleep at night, help your company to really improve its performance, and possibly be lauded as a hero. The con’s of doing the same is that you will be punished or fired for insubordination and that nothing will ever really change.
Now, here’s the long answer to your question:
People will behave in the manner to which they are motivated. If those two levels of management between you and the director are benefiting from the current flawed measurement system, then I doubt that they will be pleased. If neither of them have anything to gain or lose from your observations, you might see if you could “engineer” a casual hallway conversation with the new director without going into much detail. Then you might approach it with your direct management from this standpoint: “Since we have some new leadership coming aboard, I thought that now might be a good time for us to revisit some of our current performance measures to see if we’re tracking the right things in the right way. I would be happy to spearhead this effort on top of my current workload, since I know that both of you are extremely busy with other things. By coincidence, I just happened to run into the new director recently, and he was asking me some questions about our measurements, but I wanted to run it by you before I continued any further conversations with him.”
Their response will speak volumes to you. If they come across as defensive and punitive, you at least have the “out” that it was just a coincidental conversation and you innocently didn’t realize that it was a sensitive subject. If they are supportive that you took the initiative, then you have the green light to proceed. This at least allows you to open up the conversation with the director without revealing too much too soon.
On another note, some organizations now have policies in place to protect whistle-blowers. You might check and see if your organization is one of them. If it is, then you may be able to report your findings to the director with your company’s ombudsman or ethics officer or HR representative present. It sounds as though you’ve been documenting your evidence already (bravo!!!), so you at least have something tangible to present.
I hope this helps. Thank you for writing to Office Politics.
Best of luck,
Timothy Johnson, Author
Timothy Johnson is the author of the newly released Gust: The “Tale” Wind of Office Politics (Lexicon, 2007) as well as Race Through The Forest – A Project Management Fable (Tiberius, 2006). As Chief Accomplishment Officer for his company, Carpe Factum, Inc. (Latin for “Seize The Accomplishment”), he also is a dynamic speaker, providing keynotes and workshops on the accomplishment-oriented topics of project management, creativity, process improvement, systems thinking, and (of course) office politics. His consulting clients have crossed multiple industries and have included Wells Fargo, Harley-Davidson, ING, Teva NeuroScience, and Principal Financial Group. In addition to writing, consulting, speaking, and coaching, he is also an adjunct instructor for Drake University’s MBA program in Des Moines Iowa, teaching classes in Project Management, Creativity for Business, and Managing Office Politics.