Achieving Business Excellence with John Spence

The Messenger

I think I am going to get my team to design a new t-shirt for me, it will say in big letters on the front “The Messenger” and all around it will be drawings of bullet holes with blood running down. Yes, they still shoot the messenger!

For the past several years I have been deploying a very in-depth and well-researched “Organizational Effectiveness Audit” for many of my clients. Based on my own experience in working with several hundred companies and adapted from the national “Great Places to Work” study, the audit is superb for identifying specifically where organizations are strong and where they need work.

Most senior executives that get the results are very pleased. Although they might be surprised by a few low scores and often get some “uncomfortable” feedback, they understand clearly that they can’t fix what they don’t know about and see the value in taking a hard, honest look at the current state of their organization.

However, from time-to-time it does not go that way. I’ll hand in the executive report to the CEO only to have them read it, look at me… and shred it! Saying, “no one in this company is ever to see that report.” Or, if we are doing it at a retreat and I hand out the report to the entire executive team all at the same time, they get very angry with me and I have even had them terminate the engagement on the spot.

Here is the point. Honesty can hurt, but it is the only thing that will help you and your company to be as successful as possible. If you do a survey like this (with me or any other consultant) and you don’t like the answers – don’t get mad at the consultant, don’t get mad at the people who filled out the surveys — look in the mirror and say, “What have I done to contribute to this, and what must I do to get these scores up to where I want them?” If you put the tough things out on the table, discuss them openly, embrace a culture of frank feedback and transparency – you can remove fear and get everyone in your organization working together to fix any problems and move forward as a team.

(click here to see an example of the Organizational Effectiveness Audit)


  1. Laugh — I can relate strongly to that experience. Instead of t-shirts, maybe we should get club jackets. I find, once someone accepts the critical importance of honesty John, figuring out how to relate to the messenger can be one of the biggest challenges in hiring and working with a business consultant. There’s a short articled called,” Why Doc, Why? Three ways of relating to the role of business consultant,” available for free through Excellence University Journal which I’ve been told is a little helpful in this regard.