Allergic to Truth–Part 1

Here’s a typical sequence that describes a few of the common ways the truth allergy can creep in. Perhaps you will recognize it in your company. A company designs a new product. The designers say they have designed it to meet the needs of the target customers, but the truth is the designers have followed their own sense of what the product should be. They do not understand the target customers or their needs. The product is launched. The sales force says it is the best on the market. The truth is the sales force does not know much about the rival products and they figure it is wise not to examine closely the question of who is actually best. The product has problems in the field. The technical support people say it is a rare problem, primarily caused by how the customer is using it. The truth is that if the company looked carefully at the problems, there would be ways to fix them. The customers return products, and lengthen their evaluation periods. The sales vice president defers recognizing the returned goods and counts the evaluations as final sales. Accounts receivable rise. The CFO tells the bank that collections are slow because __________ (fill in the blank!). It goes on.

The truth is skirted a little more at each stage. It gets to be a habit. It spreads. Remedial measures are not taken because the facts get more and more hidden. The result of this culture of truth avoidance is simple: in a subtle, often unnoticed way, the company comes to regard truth as uncomfortable, and unfamiliar. The longer this culture is active, the more the reality deteriorates and the appearances are propped up, and the vulnerability to truth increases.

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