Transparent Communications

February 28th, 2012 by DWM Magazine

While I never blog about company related items, I do think that the past two weeks have reminded us of something important. For us, two items: The FTC ruling about energy pledges and the Chicago plant news story. While I am not speaking for the company here, both of these subjects reminded me to discuss open, transparent, accurate communication.

The Chicago plant issue was miscommunication at the local level. Once senior management got involved from corporate headquarters everything was cleared up and everyone went home. Thank goodness. We love all our employees and we were reminded how quickly a few people can confuse an issue, even by accident.

In the same way the FTC ruling was in essence about transparent and clear communications … in this case to customers. I might summarize it by stating: using the words “up to” now means “most of the customers will achieve this” to the FTC, rather than what “up to” might mean in general conversational English. Ok, good learning for all of us, and certainly clears up any chance of unmet expectations by consumers through communication … and that was the point. Clear, open, honest, accurate advertising without spin.

Whether we are communicating to a board of directors, our supervisors, or out to dealers or customers or our employees, we had better have a no-spin zone around the words we use. It is very easy to get fired up about a topic and over-sell. We are all guilty of that at times (I certainly am). But the people around us, our employees, dealers, customers, want open and honest and factual communication without a millimeter of spin attached. Communicating in this way builds trust and over time, and strong follow-ship.

We have all had customers that somehow got some windows that, well, were not the very best we had made. Statistically maybe it is only 1 percent, but as hard as we try it is never 0 percent. So how can we handle that best? Open, honest, factual communications: “we screwed up, we made junk, we figured out what happened and it won’t happen again and we will get you new windows immediately.” Ok, I am being a little harsh with the junk word … but truthfully I have seen “junk” come out of everyone’s factory at times. Rare maybe, but it happens and we are embarrassed. The best producers will own up to it immediately and correct it just as fast. And communicate with honesty at every step. And we have seen people that don’t do that … and it doesn’t end well.

So lets call March “open and honest communication month” and each take an extra second to be sure we are in a complete no-spin zone. Call out the facts and work together for resolutions. Be transparent with real data. Share the good with the bad. Whether it is management, the FTC, customers, employees, dealers, boards–we all will leave March with a renewed sense of trust and accomplishment and camaraderie. And what can be wrong with that?

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7 comments
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  1. Excuse me, but the FTC ruling was less about “transparent and clear communication” than it was about knowingly making misleading and unsubstantiated performance claims. Your parsing of the phrase “up to” is reminiscent of Bill Clinton trying to wriggle out from under perjury charges by attempting to determine what the definition of “is” is. Not surprising, it was a very small number of players from our industry who didn’t quite understand that subtle difference between making unsupported performance claims “in general conversation” versus as a guarantee to the consumer.

    The point is: you got caught. And by “you”, I mean “YOU”. Not the rest of us, not even a small percentage of us, although you seem to want to put us all on the same bus. The fact is, as an industry we DON’T make these claims, and I take it personally when you tar me with the same brush that was used on you. Additionally, we, and I’m speaking for my company here, don’t make junk, thank you very much. In fact, we dont’ even make that 1% that fail to perform statistic that you throw out there. Thanks, but we don’t need a special month to commemmorate “open and honest communication”. We practice it every day, and have been for over 157 years.

  2. Robert- tremendous post. I’ll take on the other side of this. The plant closure. Kevin states:
    The Chicago plant issue was miscommunication at the local level. Once senior management got involved from corporate headquarters everything was cleared up and everyone went home. Thank goodness. We love all our employees and we were reminded how quickly a few people can confuse an issue, even by accident.

    So we are to believe that something as amazingly important as closing a plant was NOT handled or decided by senior management? Way to throw the local guys under the bus. So the people in Chicago just decided, we’re toast, time to close and go home? No way. The team in Chicago hired the union busting law firm? The team in Chicago made all of the arrangements for the WARN act? Sorry. Does not pass the open and honest communication that you say.

  3. The FOO (Friends Of Obama) has spoken. All this green stuff is not financially sustainable after all? Gee I sure am surprised… hee hee hee

  4. Bob Maynes for President! Well done.

  5. Bob Maynes for President-Well done Bob.

  6. Like Robert, I find Kevin’s discussion what ‘up to’ means disconcerting.

    However — it seems to me, that given;
    1. the extreme unlikeliness of anyone saving 49% and,
    2. how far the average savings would likely be from 49% ,
    discussing the meaning of ‘up to’ is rather more reminiscent of a Monty Python skit than a Clinton cross examinination.

    I would happily reconsider this rather harsh analogy — if anyone can point to a peer reviewed study that shows even 1(one) house where replacing windows produced a 49% energy savings.

  7. Why SE site shows Kevin Surace not as CEO anymore but as Chairman? A Chairman may be the highest officer of a board but in reality has no executive powers. The one that really runs the company is the CEO and it seems SE has a new one.

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