Monday – 10:30am – The Executive Boardroom The CEO of Groupe M., a manufacturing company that is one of the market leaders in its sector, announces an important piece of news: the company is in the process of buying out a rival start-up company. This latter firm has been causing waves of panic among the market players since its creation five years previously.
For all of the directors present at the meeting this is unquestionably a major announcement and a very good piece of news. By acquiring this company, the Group will obtain key technological know-how for its future development, additional sales revenue and an opening into countries that it had not yet succeeded in breaking into. Two hours later – The Communication division An in-house news release and communication pack has been distributed to all managers in order to assist them in delivering the good news to the Group’s employees. “For once, we got things right,” the CEO tells us, “The managers were the first to hear the news this time.” In other words, they didn’t hear about it through the grapevine (as is usually the case) via the press or from union sources. One month later – Meetings of staff delegates at field level The staff representatives feed back a number of questions that have been raised by employees in relation to the buy-out. These questions are in particular related to the consequences of the operation on job and investment development trends in France. Those working at the grass roots are worried. According to the staff delegates, “there is considerable annoyance out there” as people state that they heard the news via the media or “from us, their representatives”. Concerned by this observation, the CEO asks the members of the Executive Board to sound out their management line.They report back that the grass-roots managers had been asking questions about the consequences of the takeover operation, e.g.: Would this acquisition not present a danger to the company’s own sites? Would the top management now be looking to reproduce the financial model of this innovative start-up company throughout all of its business units, resulting in widespread reorganization? Would it lead to site closures in France? For the Executive Board, none of these issues were currently on the agenda. For the operational managers however, these were very much burning issues and precisely reflected the sort of questions that their team members would be putting to them. Furthermore, no answers were to be found in the communication pack provided. In such a context, it was not surprising that the managers had deemed it somewhat imprudent to take the initiative of going out to their teams on their own and informing them of this corporate acquisition! After all, who really enjoys standing stark naked in the open countryside? What conclusions can be drawn from this story? In reality, what this tale reveals is the extent to which the senior executives and the grass-roots managers of Groupe M. had become cut-off from each other. It is indeed a matter of concern that the Executive Board had failed to anticipate the lukewarm reception that the managers in the field would give to the news of the takeover. At the same time, it is disconcerting that those same managers failed to voice their own doubts and concerns to their superiors. A gap in perception that could have had much more serious consequences in other circumstances… and that thanks to the lessons learned from this experience, Groupe M. is actively seeking to bridge.