“You Can’t Get That Data….Only One Person Can Run That Report”

When employees hoard information and knowledge for their own benefit and control, they negatively affect the team and business.

When I left Houston and moved to the Eastern Hemisphere, I had to learn a new inventory and ERP software system.  Getting acclimated to the new program wasn’t overly difficult, but I quickly found out the ability to export and analyze data was virtually impossible.

I asked someone, “’how can I run a report to show the status of my customers’ orders so I know when they will ship or if any are late?”

“Oh, you can’t really do that,” they said.  “There is only one person who can, so you’ll need to ask him to run his report for you.”

What do they mean, HIS report?

Why is he the only one that can get the data and information needed to help our customers?  I was pretty stunned and a little frustrated, because now I was going to struggle to do my job effectively.  I had to get more details on this situation because it didn’t make sense to me.

We had daily team meetings to go through any operations issues, delays, or upcoming orders but we needed this report to have the visibility to make decisions.  The main thing everyone needed was the breakdown of the In Progress orders to show delays, current statuses, or late orders.  If this one person wasn’t in the office, we didn’t have visibility into important information, making the meetings and our team much less effective.

It was killing me not being able to pull data and do analysis when I needed.  I couldn’t give my customers answers or updates on their orders without asking this one person for the report.  This situation wasn’t something I could tolerate for a long time.

How did it get to this point?

There were a few reasons.  First and foremost, it was this individual’s desire to maintain control and power over other team members.  Not in an unethical way, but more about staying relevant and needed in their role. The rest of the team just accepted the fact that he said it was too difficult to learn how to create this report.  He was very good with Excel and extremely intelligent, so I understand why people could be led to that conclusion.

I made the call to figure out a way to get this information on a regular basis and remove the potential bottleneck.  I asked him to show me how the report was created and had him walk me through the steps.  Yes, it was difficult and tedious to run so it wasn’t as easy as just clicking a button.  I was able to learn how to run it so if he was not available, I could do it in his absence. Job well done, right?  Not quite….

I should have seen it coming, but it wasn’t long before he just stopped creating the report and then people started asking me for the info every morning.  It was another attempt to regain control, power, and be needed.  I never want to be the bottleneck or roadblock, so I had to figure out an alternative.  I started asking more questions about the ERP system and who knew the most about it.  I quickly found out we had a guru at our UK location….Bingo!  I sent him an email asking if there was a way to create this report through the software.  He called me and quickly told me, “no, it’s too limited.  Sorry Jon.”  He could probably hear my disappointment and as I started to hang my head he said, “but, we just got a new reporting tool that might be able to do it.  Give me a couple days and I’ll see if I can recreate it.”  Through the huge smile on my face I said, “Dude! That would be incredible.  Let me know if you need anything else from me to make it happen.  I’ll owe you big time!”

Just one day later …. I did say he was a guru!

He called me and said, “I was able to build this report and I can have it automatically emailed to anyone you want each morning.”  This was huge and I knew I was going to have to buy this guy a cup of tea or maybe a room temperature lager if I was ever in the UK.  I was extremely grateful and couldn’t wait to tell the rest of the team. “Thanks man!  Bangers and mash and Stella is on me if I’m ever in Sheffield.”

Leadership Lessons Learned:

  • People often accept the status quo because they assume someone has already investigated alternatives.
  • Any system or process that is 100% reliant on just one or two people has a high probability of causing bottlenecks or stifling progress.  Not to mention increased chances of human error and mistakes.
  • Employees that seek power and control by holding others hostage are a cancer and need to be removed.  If they are truly doing it unintentionally, they need to be made aware and then coached up.