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In a dictatorship candour is generally absent from public life. This creates situations where the dictator has trouble getting good information about what is actually going on.

For example, in the first Gulf War Saddam Hussein had such faulty intelligence re his own military’s capacity that the Iraqis got into situations like the Highway of Death. Prior to the second Iraq War, no one wanted to tell Saddam that he did not have a powerful WMD arsenal because he would have gone ballistic. ┬áSuch was his folly. In a dictatorship criticism of policy, even deliverance of bad news, gets one shot/sent to the gulag/removed from a desirable job/or harassed by thugs so it doesn’t happen.

This used to be the case in many organizations. Today though, people are paying a lot more lip-service to candour because without it you get into Abilene Paradox situations or other forms of groupthink. Some CEO’s are now trying to institutionalize candour and make it part of culture which is a great idea in theory.

However, as pertains to making candour kosher, culture change takes a very long time. Why? Because for some reason people don’t like being challenged on flawed ideas they themselves have dreamt up. Nor do folks like being told about things they consistently promise to deliver on and fail to. But these and other types of failings have to be called out for organizations – and individuals – to move forward.

It seems as though the presence of candour in organizations and the degree to which they are OK with it reflects the personality of leaders more than anything else. Culture flows from the top down. If this is the case some firms are doomed to abhor candour until the leadership exits stage right. Ask any Cuban about how long a process that can be.

Candour has to be promoted by managers because agreement must be managed. Too often it is quashed because people tend to want to manage disagreement. Disagreement at the outset of a project/process is the key ingredient in the avoidance of failure. It is agreement we need to worry about.

How do you promote candour in your organization?

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