Information flow in complex organizations always tends to be a key issue expressed by many employees we have polled over the years. These employees worked in various cultures and environments, which demonstrates consistency that the communication pitfalls are not isolated to one particular organizational type, structure or culture. How this strategy is defined and communicated, creates an outcome and impact on the relationships with internal and external stakeholders.
The aftermath of disjointed, vague, inconsistent, and untimely communications is stress, anxiety, and interpersonal conflicts that could lead to painful outcomes. Some potential impacts of poorly planned and delivered communications are:
Decreased employee morale that leads to talent seeking opportunities outside of the organization
Delays or failures in the final project delivery
Declining revenues due to re-work, insufficient delivery on expectations, future business with a customer, and lack of future referrals
Reductions in staff (layoffs) due to decreased revenues and cash flow
Setting Up A Clear Communication Strategy
When setting up an overall communication strategy, it is important to define corporate culture that drives maximum results. Sounds simple and logical, right? What is the issue then with constant breakdown in communication that leads to poor performance?
In our opinion, ideally, when defining culture, employees' and customers’ diversity should be taken into consideration. A cohesive leadership team needs to drive an acceptable communication strategy based on company values. They need to foster and nourish clarity. Skip a beat once, and deliver a message that is not aligned with the values that have been preached, and fallout can happen instantaneously. Leaders can immediately plant a seed of doubt and cynicism in the employees' minds, who can start questioning leaders' integrity.
Why Care About Employees' Thoughts
Organizations are comprised of people driven by values and emotions
A leader who neglects to understand that 21st century employees perform better when they feel engaged in building the future of the company, runs a higher risk of delaying innovation or failing at growing the company
Being transparent, clear and reaching people's feelings, breeds respect and desire to meet common goals, because the goals are understood and everyone is aligned with the expectations.
Overcommunicating a consistent message makes it stick! In the book "The Advantage Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else in Business" Patrick Lencioni explains that "clarifying your organization’s reason for existence – its values, strategic anchors and goals – is not enough. You must communicate these core messages repeatedly. People fully comprehend and assimilate information only when they hear the same message again and again from a variety of sources over time... Leaders may think they’ve fulfilled their communication obligations when they make an announcement or send out an email. Yet employees will believe their bosses are earnest, sincere and committed to what they are saying only when the leaders repeat and reinforce their messages."
Communication Strategies for Managing Projects
Now that the vision has been created, communicated and repeated, put it to the test and see how it works in practice.
Let’s say your team is managing a complex project that involves multiple departments or business units. In our experience, there are some key indicators that signal communication breakdowns, such as duplication of effort, a lack of reporting, “turf wars”, and employee conflicts, just to name a few. Ultimately, these barriers lead to project delays, increased expenses, and unhappy customers. Recognizing and addressing these symptoms early will increase probability of success and save the team from dealing with more significant issues in the end.
Develop Your Managers
Some successful companies invest in management development that incorporates corporate beliefs and norms that shape managers’ perceptions and actions. The training incorporates development of skills on clear and concise communications and decision processes. Managers understand the roles and responsibilities, not only of their respective business unit, but also of other departments.
While world leaders recognize the need for talent development, their focus on the bottom line results often trumps the task of developing their top managers.
These managers can:
Keep the project focused by working collaboratively with their peers and customers
Create consistent processes to achieve the highest priorities that concentrate on the project success vs. having to constantly deal with conflict
Manage their teams by setting clear expectations of goals and definition of success, supporting them throughout the project, and holding all accountable for the productive outcome
Because these managers understand the broad vision, goals, and responsibilities, they will create improved future processes and approaches based on the learning from the last project.
Run Impactful Meetings
The last few points and suggestions that can contribute to successful communication between departments during a complex project execution are:
Only plan to have productive meetings that deliver targeted outcomes
Have clear objectives and agenda distributed ahead of the meeting
Well-governed meetings foster group togetherness and clear communication
People hate meetings where only one person likes to vent their frustrations or demonstrate their self-imposed intelligence. An organizer should assign roles and stick to the time and topics allocated on the agenda.
Each team player needs to be clear on their responsibilities and goals
Make sure that people understand and know how to use the tools during the project
Generally, people don’t want to fail. Why not help others succeed? Providing clarity in every day communications can help leaders and teams to grow the organization more rapidly. Well-defined internal communication strategy can create learning culture, bring innovative solutions from collaborative group dynamics and provide competitive advantage.