When an employee at Healthdyne Inc. complains, the chief executive officer is likely to know about it by the end of the week. Healthdyne, a $133-million manufacturer of medical equipment in Marietta, Ga., installed boxes with complaint forms near its time-clock stations and cafeteria bulletin boards. The forms are a single page with two sections -- one for the employee to identify the problem or make a suggestion, the other to explain how the problem or suggestion affects the company and the individual. Accompanying envelopes are marked "Personal and Confidential," and are personally addressed to the CEO.

"We're a fast-growing company, and our employees have been forced to make many painful adjustments," says Parker H. Petit, Healthdyne's CEO. "I'm trying very hard to keep the lines of communication from becoming blocked. This system gives people an opportunity to jump the chain of command and get their problems right to my desk, so I can try to solve them immediately." Petit also sends a written response to every letter that is signed.