How to Avoid Crashing Into the “Iceberg of Ignorance”

3 min read
May 11, 2017


What percentage of your organization’s problems would you say you’re aware of?

According to Sidney Yoshida, you are almost certainly being too kind to yourself. In his study “The Iceberg of Ignorance,” Yoshida asserts that top managers are only aware of a paltry 4% of the problems that are affecting their organizations at any given moment. Furthermore, middle management is only aware of 9% of the problems while supervisors are familiar with 74% of them.

Does anyone know all of the problems affecting an organization at any given point in time, according to Yoshida? Yes: frontline employees.

So, per Yoshida’s research, the people best equipped to solve problems — and those who have the authority to do so — are the least likely to even know the issues exist in the first place.

Whether these problems are related to efficiency, employee happiness, workloads, or professional development opportunities — among other things — they need to be addressed and resolved quickly if companies expect their employees to stick around for the foreseeable future. When management isn’t even aware that there are problems taking place, there’s no way they will be able to solve them.

The good news is that it’s possible for you to captain your company in such a way that ensures you avoid crashing into the iceberg of ignorance. Here’s how:


01. Use pulse surveys

Since you can be certain that your low-level employees are very aware of the problems that are occurring at your organization, the easiest way to figure out what’s going wrong is by asking them directly. Because some members of your team might be a little shy and afraid of giving their honest opinions out of fear they may be disciplined for sharing bad news, utilize pulse surveys that enable employees to give their feedback anonymously. That way, you increase the chances that your employees tell the truth. Look for patterns in your employees’ responses to figure out what needs fixing. Act upon their suggestions as soon as you can.



02. Keep your door open

If you want to know about every problem that’s occurring at your company, get in the habit of keeping the door to your office open as much as you possibly can. Encourage your team members to pop into your office to let you know about any problems that are either developing or are anticipated to develop in the future. The more communicative you can convince your team to be, the less likely you will be blindsided by bad news.


03. Schedule exit interviews

Don’t let your employees leave without picking their brains and asking them what went wrong. Schedule exit interviews with each of your workers who decides to leave to pursue another opportunity. Ask each employee what they liked about your company and what they would change if they were in control. Use the information you glean from these interviews to identify problems areas. Whenever you uncover a serious problem, take swift action to address it immediately. By doing so, you will almost certainly enhance employee happiness and convince your team to stick around.

Develop a feedback loop with your employees so that they can always be counted on to tell you about things that aren’t going as well as you wish they would be. That way, you won’t be left in the dark — and you won’t crash into the iceberg of ignorance. Your company will live to float comfortably for years to come.



Free Guide to Pulsing Employee Surveys


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