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How to Paralyze Organizations the Fastest? By Turning a Deaf Ear to Distress Signals...

Do you ever find yourself asking how certain situations could have possibly happened in your organization? The answer often lies in the fact that signals, both weak and strong, were ignored.

In this article, we'll draw inspiration from an interesting case study: the Dutch alarm sirens. These sirens go off every first Monday of the month, at 12:00 sharp. The current function of these sirens is more likely to elicit a doubtful joke: "If I were a terrorist, I would attack on the first Monday of the month at 12:00 p.m. Ha...ha..." However, the core purpose of a distress signal is to alert people that something is wrong and prompt them to take action.

Similarly, organizations often face situations where we wonder in hindsight how things could have gone so wrong. In many cases, we find that weak and strong warning signs were simply ignored. We can be angry about this, but the truth is, it could happen to any of us. The key question is: how can we ensure that distress signals are heard and acted upon?

Learn from the Siren

The beauty of the air raid siren lies in its simplicity. It's a clear, unmistakable signal that triggers us to take action. We test the alarm monthly, serving as a constant reminder of its purpose.

This presents a valuable opportunity for EX and CX professionals. We can incorporate a dedicated space for distress signals in our (monthly) reports, ensuring they always prompt a follow-up action. This is essentially our organizational "alarm."

Here's how to put it into practice:

  • Establish a dedicated space in your reporting for distress signals.

  • Brainstorm potential triggers for these signals (both internal and external).

  • Practice a (challenging) scenario monthly by discussing it with relevant teams.

  • Briefly evaluate the exercise and incorporate improvement points.

By following these steps, you can keep your organization alert and practice readiness to act. This can prevent teams from freezing up in a real emergency situation because they don't know what to do.


P.S. Want to learn more about our highly valued inspiration session: meaningful change in the real world?Mail us at or click here for a Dutch video preview. 


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