Tight Lips Sink Ships

During Word War II, the US Office of War Information coined the phrase “Loose Lips Sink Ships” in an effort to mitigate the risk of leaking information to enemy spies. While this tactic is useful during wartime, it can serve to hurt your business.

What I mean here is sinking your ship from within by failing to communicate, both early and often.

One of my best clients is a government contractor, providing software systems to to the US military. Over the past year, I have worked with them to customize one of their commercial products for government use. As you might imagine, the compliance requirements are rather stringent, as is the schedule. I sat in on several of their release planning meetings, whose purpose is to ensure the quality of the final deliverables.

Towards the end of one of these meetings, a representative from the marketing department, who had not previously attended, chimed in with a concern over branding. Apparently, several of the software components incorrectly used one of their trademarked brand names. This software had been in development for a year, and the branding was prominently displayed, available for review by the marketing department throughout the development process.

The software was in lockdown mode, that is, no further changes, and had been signed off internally for delivery to the customer several days later. So why would marketing throw a red flag so late in the game? Their response was, “we told you months ago.”

Needless to say, this spun up the organization at the highest levels. Nobody, except for marketing, seemed to recall this branding directive. I suggested the following, “Should you push back the release to satisfy the marketing department, or proceed with inconsistent branding, and satisfy the customer?” Everyone shut up.

The software was released on time, without any branding changes. “Sorry, marketing folks, we’ll get your change in the next release,” said my client.

So what went wrong here?

The marketing folks, while correct about the branding issue, failed to communicate early and often. They had a responsibility to the rest of the organization to champion their requirements. The development organization also had a responsibility to ask the right questions. Neither of these happened.

Failing to effectively communicate within your organization will impact your goals more than any other factor. Not talent. Not effort. Not money.

Are you sinking ships, or keeping the boat afloat?

– Mark


© 2015 Mark Richman. All Rights Reserved.


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