Note: This post first appeared in the original site for the Business is ART blog on March 5, 2015 and was entitled “Promote Honesty: 3 Up, 3 Down Report.” Given that site is no longer available and that I truly believe it to be a very powerful tool, I’m reposting it here.
Sally: Bill, what’s the status of the XYZ project?
Bill: Well, Sally, things couldn’t be better. We completed tasks 1, 2 and 3 and by end of next week, tasks 5 and 6 will be done as well – full steam ahead.
Sally: That’s great, Bill. Any problems or roadblocks?
Bill: Nope. The usual bumps and grinds, but everything’s moving along according to plan.
One month later, project XYZ has major problems that seem to have come from nowhere. Sally is very angry at Bill, but whose fault is it really? It may be hers.
No One Wants to be the Bearer of Bad News
No matter how good someone’s relationship is with “the boss,” no one wants to be the bearer of bad news. We want to show the boss we are capable of leading and that things under our “command” are doing well.
We behave this way not because we are liars, but in many cases because we honestly don’t want to burden the boss with things we feel we should be able to handle ourselves. In other cases, the boss has created an environment in which if bad news is presented, we are belittled and an over-reaction follows.
In neither case is it healthy for business. The point of delivering bad news on the job is to fix problems, preferably before they turn in to larger ones. No one person has all of the answers, so it’s best to get the issue out on the table where multiple heads can address it and come up with a solution.
Striking a Healthy Balance
One effective means of striking that balance between wanting to deliver and hear good news versus needing to deliver and hear bad news is the “Three Up, Three Down” report. The premise is simple. Report three good things that happened this week or that you are looking forward to, then report three bad things. No matter how big or small, you have to list three things in each category. Three.
When you first start using this report, the good things will probably be GREAT and the bad things will probably be minor. But it won’t take long to establish a level of trust in the process.
Ain’t Nothin’ Guaranteed
The Three Up, Three Down report does not guarantee no surprises, it won’t stop someone from willfully lying, and it won’t prevent the boss/you from over-reacting. But it does provide an effective tool for creating an environment that reduces surprises and promotes honesty without fear of reprisal…you know…if you’re in to that sort of thing.