Many of us have seen “12 Angry Men,” the 1958 best picture nominee where Henry Fonda single-handedly convinces his co-jurors to reverse their verdicts from guilty to not guilty. I’ve always admired that movie for depicting the power of one voice, of that minority view.
We have a saying at Plante Moran: “Speak up! If it’s not right, we’ll change it.” Some organizations might balk at this; after all, isn’t it just inviting anyone and everyone to submit complaints carte blanche? Yes, and that’s the point. Sure, there’s the occasional naysayer who enjoys playing devil’s advocate just for the sake of argument, but that’s not the norm. Most of the time, when a dissenting viewpoint exists, it exists for a valid reason and, with a little prompting, staff members usually have well-thought-out solutions to the objections they’re raising.
Such was the case when tax partner Butch Addison single-handedly changed the minds of our entire partner group during a vote to amend our structure.
This happened years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. The gist was this: 99.9 percent of our partner group had voted “yes” to becoming a limited liability company (LLC). When Butch voted no, then managing partner, Bill Matthews, asked him why. Butch explained that, while he thought there were a lot of positives involved, becoming an LLC would require us to make compromises to our governing partnership structure. He went on to say that Michigan was reviewing legislation that could create a new entity—the limited liability partnership—that would give us the same benefits but remove most or all of the complications associated with an LLC. “Interesting,” said Bill.” I think we ought to vote again.”
This time, the partner group—including Butch—voted 100 percent to wait, and we became “Plante & Moran, LLP” a few months later. As a newer partner then, I was impressed not only by Butch’s tenacity and willingness to stand alone when it really mattered but also by Bill’s curiosity and acceptance of Butch’s dissenting viewpoint. At other organizations, that motion may have passed without further discussion, even though it wasn’t in the best interest of the organization.
I’m interested in your stories. Can you think of a time at your organization where one voice made a difference? Have you, personally, ever been in a situation where you spoke up with a dissenting viewpoint?