Research shows that the primary reason a manager is likely to fail is not from a lack of skills and abilities, but rather from not being aware of or not having access to critical information that could negatively impact his or her decisions.
Management needs to hear the voice of truth from those who are directly involved in providing the goods and services. These are the vital few who get things done AKA Doers. These high performers are in the best position to recognize problems and recommend solutions.
The Upward Voice refers to communications directed to someone in the hierarchy with the power or authority to take corrective action. The Upward Voice consists of topic-teams made up of Doers from all levels who are known to be trustworthy.
Positive outcomes of assigning Doers to this critical role include increased open communications, disclosure of interpersonal and interdepartmental conflicts, improved relations between leaders and followers, and higher levels of productivity from nonperformers and underachievers.
In order for the Upward Voice to be effective Doers must first be assured by senior management that they are not putting themselves at risk of retaliation for speaking out and that they are not wasting their time voicing their concerns.
The following examples demonstrate how the Upward Voice was applied to achieve positive results in three challenging situations:
- A Midwest manufacturer reduced waste by $800,000 per month by forming Upward Voice teams to recommend changes in the production and engineering processes that resulted in a significant improvement to the bottom line.
- A public sector Family Support Division used the Upward Voice to develop an in-house training program that raised their ranking of 52nd in productivity to 1st. Their astonishing 491% improvement won national and statewide recognition.
- The largest medical imaging center in the nation downsized three times without damaging its world-class reputation for diagnostic excellence by forming Upward Voice teams that advised the Board of Directors on the reduction in force.
Successful organizations, like those cited above, have come to understand and appreciate the benefits of having Doers participate in the Upward Voice process.