Letter to The CEO

This note was sent to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company by an employee hoping to make a change


I am keenly aware of the challenges we have as a company. There is a lot of money at stake. A lot of people/institutions are making a sizable bet on our company and it is why I felt compelled to send you this email.

The recent financial investments our company has made are clear and are providing a good return, from our initiatives to acquire competitive new technologies, to system investments such as our new supply chain system our company is working hard to generate a return for the investors.

Understanding this I believe our ability to show a strong return on our investments is being compromised by a “blind spot”. This blind spot is in the area of the culture and morale.

Mr CEO, these are my observations of our companies culture in a nutshell.

-We have too many people saying we CAN’T and not enough saying we can
– We are too quick to defend the status quo
– Most have come to accept the complexity and difficulty of working at our company rather than working to change it
– We don’t embrace change well when introduced
– We live in silo’s with little reward for venturing out
– The fear of failure prevails over the commitment to change. It is better to be average than it is to strive for innovation and creativity and FAIL
– A culture of fear exists, where obedience, compliance and intimidation are at the core (This is growing by the day, FEAR is a very real and in some cases a daily emotion for many working at our company)
– We have too many followers and not enough leaders, because it is safer to follow the rules than it is to make up new ones
– There is a sizable chasm between the executives and the rest of the company, not enough engagement
– We are too hierarchical
– We lack a clear, compelling vision that motivates the entire company. (where are we going? Who are we going to be in 3 – 5 years? A vision beyond an ROI)
– Morale is VERY low, we risk losing large numbers if the economy turns around, many are just hiding out until other options present themselves
– People are scared, not willing to take risks, not wanting to be seen and avoiding confrontation, dissent or contrarian views.
– The soldiers are growing weary

Mr CEO, from my experience companies cannot prosper or succeed over the long-haul without the soldiers. The investments, the initiatives, and effort to grow are drastically impaired without a strong culture. Our culture is defeating, not inspiring.

For our company to improve its chances of prospering the culture and morale need to be addressed with the same vigor and commitment the financial aspect of the company is receiving.

This is not a monumental effort but it will take leadership, investment and commitment. Some suggestions include:

– Create and share a compelling vision EVERYONE at the company can get behind and be proud of, then Manage to it. (Where are we going, who are we going to be?)
– Measure it! Add to our reporting process, metrics that measure our success or failure in driving to our Vision. (are we getting closer to where we want to go?)
– Engage the Executives: Use the new social media/enterprise 2.0 tools available to us to engage the Executives in INFORMAL dialogue with the company; tools such as Microblogging, Blogs, and Wiki’s. We aren’t effectively using the tools available to drive collaboration and engagement vertically. LESS OF THE EXECUTIVES TALKING AT US AND MORE TALKING WITH US
– Manage behaviors: determine what the cultural norms or behaviors are expected at the company and manage to them. (leadership, risk taking, innovation, collaboration etc.)
– Reward the doers, we can be more visible in rewarding those who take risk (success OR failure) It’s the behaviors we want
– Eradicate the fear: Make our company a safe place to work. Remove the fear of failure, and the intimidation (Identify ways to accurately measure employees comfort and fear level, then measure it regularly looking for improvement.) Consider doing a yearly culture survey and compare the yearly results. Are we making progress?
– Get more people engaged at all levels within the companies culture development and management. Build a culture with our own language, identity and behavioral norms. What does it mean to work at our company?
– Build a plan to reduce the complexity

There are many people in this company who are ready for change, you have the soldiers, they are fans, fanatics who want us to win. They now need an environment conducive to that commitment.

Our business and the industry are changing rapidly. 5 years from now they will look very different than they do today, and we are not entitled to be a part of that change. We need to make sure we not only are part of that change, but lead it and we can’t do it without the soldiers.

Mr CEO feel free to reach out to me if you would like to discuss further. Otherwise, I hope this email helps initiate the efforts required to address our “blind spot” and drive change. I look forward to participating in the effort moving forward.

This was an email to a CEO, however in the future I suspect we will see more of this in open forums. Social Media is giving employees more outlets to express themselves. Companies need to prepare. One way to be prepared is to be more attentive to the “soldiers”.

If you were an employee at this company would you send this email? If you were the CEO of this company, what would you do?