There was an article in Bloomberg Businessweek recently about Ford’s transfer of CEO power. The part that caught my eye was a description of the Thursday morning meets that CEO, Alan Mulally, instigated. Each of his top managers were to report on their initiatives using the red/amber/green method. The article says that some time went by with every one of the managers reporting green.
Eventually, Mark Fields, head of the North American business showed a red. Alan’s reaction was perfect in this situation: he clapped. “The applauding CRO offered praise: “Great visibility Mark. … Is there anything we can do to help you?”
There’s three things I took from this. First, a professional does not report green when the actual status is red. Yes, you could lose your job for reporting red. Yes, your job is to perform and get results. Your professionalism and sense of ethics is more important than that. Second, every one, even someone as far up the organization as Mark Fields has red issues. Third, if your team is frightened of reporting red, you don’t know what’s really going on. You need to be positive and encourage candor when it comes.