Good News, Bad News — and Decentralized Decision-Making

We had a saying at Applied Materials that became well-known both inside and outside the company.
Good news is no news.
No news is bad news.
And bad news is good news
—if you do something about it.
Of course people want to celebrate their successes and share good news within an organization. But even in the midst of success there are invariably problems just under the surface. When things are quiet, it’s time to listen carefully. You’ll always find something. We saw bad news as an opportunity — bad news is good news because it gives you a chance to address problems before they spiral out of control.
I’ve come to realize how important this saying is when decision-making is moved down within the organization. You hire the best people you can and then you trust them to use their judgment to do the right thing. People, at all levels, need to learn to consistently recognize, confront, and fix problems early, to emphasize finding solutions, and not assigning blame. When decision paths are predictable, people will make decisions.
Within their area of responsibility, most people will make the right decisions most of the time. I’ve learned that the odds of people making a mistake are small. They just need to decide to decide.
  • Can you identify a recent situation where “no news” got your organization into trouble?
  • How could you have discovered the news hiding behind that “no news” situation?