The Email Group that Empowered My Voiceless Middle Managers and Drove Transparency Across an Organization

August 10, 2020

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Executive: Private equity-backed manufacturing CFO/COO.

Challenge: Lack of transparency across all levels of the organization. Middle-management hesitant to communicate key information.

Solution: A 200-strong email group for all levels of management to voice operational issues.

“The most important part of building culture is demanding transparency across all levels of the organization.

The exact state of the culture is different in every company. PE-backed executives need to lead by serving and create a momentum of culture within a business.

Subpar companies are good at making excuses for not doing things. As an executive, the only way to solve problems is if you know what the problems are. In mediocre companies, that middle-management level is often trained not to say anything. They have a strong line of sight into daily operations, but they’ve been taught not to to rock the boat.

To improve that, we set up an email group with roughly 200 people inside of it. All levels of management, including myself, were on the chain. You could write any operating problem there and it would be seen by the entire group. We encouraged everyone to embrace it, and sometimes emails would come through at 2 or 3 a.m.

You have to prioritize the key drivers of the business, so I did not have time to personally address every issue. But sometimes, I would. That email group helped surface some issues that needed immediate fixing.

People got comfortable asking us just about anything and they knew we would hear them and answer the best we could. It becomes a behavior once people get used to it. They go from being apathetic and feeling like what’s the point of even talking about a problem to thinking, ‘Hell, I can do anything.’”

Action Steps

First, set-up an email group on Outlook or Gmail to establish a running digital dialogue across all levels of management.

  • Explain the purpose of the channel to its participants and take steps to encourage early engagement.
  • Leverage the email group to monitor intra-company communication and foster radical transparency.
  • Take action when crucial, value-impacting issues emerge. Share details of the response along with immediate and anticipated outcomes to encourage continued candor.

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