Memorable communications

Posted on October 22, 2011

I recently re-read a book entitled Employees First, Customers Second by Vineet Nayar.. In the book Nayar mentions that new knowledge or a shift in perception only comes about through ‘memorable, extreme or experimental’ communications. At an Intelligent Disobedience keynote presentation in the United States, one of our attendees shared a great example of extreme and experimental communications, and it saved a major project they were running.

A team of business analysts were working on the requirements for a new patient care system at a major metropolitan hospital. Despite pressures from senior hospital administrators to progress the new system, the administrator’s team members were not diligently attending requirements collection and analysis reviews. As a result, the project schedule was slipping and risked falling farther behind. The Business Analysis Manager had escalated the issue to the sponsor (one of the aforementioned senior administrators) multiple times. After the escalations, attendance at the requirements sessions would improve, but only temporarily. It was apparent another way of communicating to the senior administrators was necessary so the team tried a very different approach.

As the hospital administrators held their next monthly meeting, the business analysis team went into action. They collected a patient “crash cart” and connected it to a cardboard mock up of their project mascot (a running cartoon character to symbolize speed in getting patient data to physicians). They then brought the cart into the administrator’s meeting, turning the cart on as they entered. The device made the very familiar high pitch squeal, accompanied by the “flat line” appearing on the crash cart monitor. The business analysis team made an announcement to the meeting attendees that the patient care system project was in “critical condition”.

This notable means of communication got the required attention from the administrators to result in substantive change. Business representatives were added to the project team, requirements were collected and verified appropriately and the project ended up being a notable success for the hospital and the community it serves.

Note: This blog entry on communication demonstrates a great example of intelligent disobedience. Intelligent Disobedience Leadership provides workshops, coaching and consulting with a focus on courageous leadership through intelligent disobedience. We can help you and your teams design a community of practice which leverages constructive “intelligent disobedience.” For further information, email us at