The Squeaky Wheel

squeakyWe have all heard people at work say: “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” In other words, people who make the most noise get what they want. That’s a process problem if ever there was one. It also illustrates people’s acceptance of problems rather than trying to understand its root cause and applying practical countermeasures.

Management, of course, owns this particular process problem, one that is sure to result in poor decisions. Why? Because decisions will favor those who are are the loudest, but which are not necessarily the problems that actually require management’s attention. The squeaky wheel is a political process, not a fact-based process, so most decisions are destined to be poor ones.

It seems most managers have an affection for the squeaky wheel because it gives them a reason for being and makes them feel important. It puts them in demand when people could otherwise get things done quickly without them. And therein lies the another problem.

In addition to working on the wrong problems, managers engage problems slowly as if time is an asset. In fact, time is a liability in most cases.

Mangers who are content with the squeaky wheel way of getting things done degrade both people’s and the organization’s performance by blocking information flow. And, as a result, they are delinquent in their most fundamental responsibility to all stakeholders – rapid problem recognition and rapid improvement.

In a squeaky wheel organization, which is also likely a blame-oriented and dissent-not-tolerated environment, the supply of information is low. That means the flow of information over time will also be low. That explains why, from management’s perspective, all seems well – until the problems suddenly emerge.

What do senior managers hate more than anything else? Surprises – bad surprises. Where do surprises come from? Political processes, which create and institutionalize poor information flow.

Surprises are the poop of political processes.

End the squeaky wheel political process and you won’t have so much poop to clean up all the time.

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