How corporate communication can avoid groupthink in the organization
We were struck by this paragraph in a recent article in the FT about the PR troubles that Huawei is experiencing in the US and Europe:
"From the 1990s, Huawei enlisted some of the most illustrious western consultants. (...) It also employed a vast array of global PR companies (...) But at crucial moments, the company did not heed their advice and even outmanoeuvred the consultants. "There was always a fundamental lack of trust (...). You offer guidance and are regularly second-guessed," Mr Plummer said.
When mr. Plummer escalated an issue with non-compliance of trade sanctions against Iran to Huawei management, he no longer received a reply from his client - and eventually, he was shut out of consultations and decision making altogether, he says:
"I received no response or reaction to the concerns I expressed and was effectively iced out of the loop," he wrote, adding that he "had touched on topics that were off-limits".
The FT's diagnosis is that the Chinese top management of Huawei lacked trust in their Western consultants. Implicitly the FT suggests that the company can't or won't understand its Western stakeholders and advisers.
But we think every communication professional has had similar experiences - they occur in international organizations, but you can also run into it with local management teams. The issue as it is described here bears more resemblence to groupthink than to insurmountable cultural differences.