Why do they lie to us?

Asked the late father of gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson, in one of his last major new books, The Curse of Lono.

The same question was asked back last November by David Anderson at the Lean Kanban Central Europe 2015 conference where he mentioned that the biggest fear of senior managers is that their middle manager are always lying to them (http://www.lkce15.com/videos/ and click on his keynote.)  As luck would have it, it was answered at least in part when a friend of mine sent me Jeffrey Pfeffer’s book, Leadership BS, a couple of months ago. Pfeffer has collected data over the years to show that in the vast majority of organizations, people lie simply because there are incentives to do so and few penalties for getting caught.

So putting all this together, I did a keynote at this week’s Executive Services Planning Summit in San Diego that concluded that one of the defining characteristics of lean/agile/maneuver — basically an organization run “according to Boyd” — is that people don’t lie to each other. In such an organization, the more people trust each other and use the other elements of the EBFAS climate, the better they can employ the lean / maneuver practices specific to their line of work.

Conversely, one characteristic of a “lean” practice is that using it also reinforces the EBFAS / trust climate.  Thus using lean practices over time “matures” an organization, and that maturity will help the organization use those practices more effectively and even develop new ones.

This should be a familiar idea to those who practice lean / maneuver. For example, here’s an observation on trust from the US Marine Corps’ basic doctrinal manual MCDP-1, Warfighting:

We believe that implicit communication—to communicate through mutual understanding, using a minimum of key, well-understood phrases or even anticipating each others’ thoughts—is a faster, more effective way to communicate than through the use of detailed, explicit instructions. We develop this ability through familiarity and trust, which are based on a shared philosophy and shared experience. (page 79)

Note that “shared experience” means using their practices together, just as Boyd recommended on p. 18 of Organic Design and pp. 74-79 of Patterns of Conflict. All of Boyd’s briefings are available from our Articles page, as is Why do they lie to us?

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One thought on “Why do they lie to us?

  1. I usually go with the data, but in this case I think the data is wrong.
    There is no incentive to lie, because the lie is the narrative.
    So the only incentive is to tell the truth, as they know it.
    In other words, they believe that their orientation has made the call, and they are falling through with it. They live in a world that people are not empowered and employees don’t really matter.
    The liar is living within a corrupted orientation and it is not necessarily the person that is corrupting the orientation, but it is their position within the organisation that has been corrupted. The lie is the implicit communication within the organization that the person is only repeating.
    It is a long tradition of corporations to give lip service to those outside the orientation, and the person simply got caught in that tradition.

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