Culture – the CEO replies, or does he?

Last night I had a dream. You remember that note I sent to the CEO yesterday? I dreamt I got an out of office reply which read:

Dear colleague

I’m sorry I can’t reply to your note personally right now, I’m managing by walking about (MBWA). I find MBWA a great way to listen to colleagues and learn from them. I really enjoy taking action based on what I’ve heard, and seeing this action make a difference to the working lives of us as a group of staff, and in turn, our customers. Of course we don’t get it right all the time and that’s fine, with creativity and innovation come mistakes, and from these mistakes arise further opportunities to learn and improve.

I will call you when I’ve finished today’s MBWA and arrange to pop by and see you soon. Alternatively give me a call and come and find me, if that’s easier for you.

Hope to see you very soon.

I awoke from my dream imagining the possibilities sparked by such a reply. And like all dreams I have, things fade quickly from my memory as reality bites. I’m glad I wrote the note down before I forgot it.

Just over three years ago I had a reality. I was working for a new divisional CEO brought in to clear up the mess left by the previous one. To be clear I didn’t work for him directly, there were two layers of confusion, oops sorry I meant management, between him and me. When the new CEO arrived he asked, nay he begged for people to be open, to lend him ideas and help. “Please drop me a line with your ideas; I can’t get us out of this mess alone”. Encouraged by this appeal I began to look for and suggest ways of making work better. I found real cost savings, small in comparison to the size of the hole we were in but we were told every little helps. I found opportunities for growth too.

I received replies to my notes. Not from the CEO, but from people on his team reassuring me that although he is very busy, all these things were being looked at. And without fail that was the first and last response I received to every single note I sent. I used to write a blog for the business so I would recall some of these ideas on there, and I often found out via blog comments these ideas were really being considered, and in some cases actioned. But I never found this out via the CEO or any of his cronies.

Then all replies from the CEO office stopped, just like that. I kept the ideas flowing for a while with no clue if they were even getting through. What was I to do? I wrote one more note. I titled it “Are You There?” and I politely asked if I was ever going to get a reply directly from the CEO to any of my notes. I was as encouraging as I could possibly be, and I got a reply. It read:

Thank you for your note to Bert (name changed to protect the ignorant). Although he is too busy to respond personally he appreciates you being in touch blah blah blah.

Based on these experiences I’m heading back to dreamland for my next dose of inspiration. If you have news of where the boss has engaged and created a positive outcome I’d love to hear them. Surely the news ain’t all bad?