Innovations, improvements, insights into why your company isn’t moving forward as fast as you’d like are likely sitting at the reception desk or toiling away in middle management—grumbling to themselves or to each other about faults they could fix, flaws they could cure, gaps they could fill—if only someone would listen to them. But, you say, “I AM listening.”

I’ve instituted an open environment in which employees are free to discuss anything, criticize processes, offer ideas.’ Trouble is, say principals in the Center for Organizational Fitness, people don’t believe that management, particularly the CEO, will actually listen and act on their comments. The organizational professionals offer tips for convincing employees that you’re serious. Among them: Advocate, inquire, repeat. Innovation initiatives tend to fall apart right from the start when top management advocates for a specific project, then implements it without discussing it with key team members and partners in other parts of the organization. This inevitably leads to a (too-late) discovery that employees had legitimate concerns.

Maybe they even expressed them, but no one ever went back to clarify or test their solution. Keep a true back-and-forth conversation going until all the red flags are down.

Harvard Business School Working Knowledge 19 Jul 2004