Is there an elephant in the room?

A recent report into 14 Hospital Trusts in the UK with very poor performance came to the conclusion that nobody was paying any attention to the elephant in the room. The Trusts were "not really listening to contradictory evidence". There was no attempt to seek the views of patients, and staff felt uncomfortable about raising their own concerns with management.

The result? In all probability, many people died who should still be alive. The English Times newspaper editorial on the subject was headed "Couldn't care less".

There was abundant evidence of a problem. But the management did not want to know. For reasons of their own, they preferred to believe that everything was OK.

Couldn't happen where you work could it? No possibility that there are problems that are not being brought out into the open and worked through? You may or may not work somewhere where lives are being put at risk by a failure to be honest. 

But failure to be honest is at the heart of the big issues in many organisations - and this very much includes charities, social enterprises and schools, as well as the public and commercial sectors.

It takes courage to be honest. It doesn't always lead to immediate popularity. But for the greater good, it needs to happen. We may point our fingers at poor Hospital Trusts, or the evident avoidance of multiple elephants in the room which contributed to the financial crisis. But in our room, are we being honest about the elephant? And if not, what's the consequence?