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Archive for April, 2009

When Cascading Messages via Management Works

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Today I want to discuss a form of team briefing which is focussed on a formal communication cascading process via management. It has three levels, the first is the CEO who at his executive team briefings has to decide which items for that week he wants communicated to employees.

This is then communicated out to the CEO’s direct reports who then have to communicate and decide the top 5 issues for their respective divisions and then finally the top 5 issues for their teams.

So the only aspect of a team brief that changes is the last section which is how what is happening in the company as a whole and our division relates to the work we are doing in our team. This is always different depending on your team in the division.

When the CEO is visiting different parts of the business he checks regularly when talking to employees on his walk arounds whether they had in fact attended a team briefing and how regularly they occur. Now the reason this works is two fold. Firstly it is driven by the CEO, he says to his direct reports, his executive team, I am conducting my team brief with you now so there is no excuse for you not to do the same with your team members. Secondly it very easy for them to use.  It is a regular occurence that flows directly from the weekly CEO executive team meetings. This ensures that there is a system, a process in place. The CEO works off has the same sheet of paper that his team has and  jots down the top five issues that the CEO wants communicated to all employees. The divisional heads then list the top 5 things and how they relate to the CEO briefings and so on. This ensures that the information is the same for everyone in the company, then the division, then finally the team.

So these are the keys to making Team Briefings work.
1. Make sure that you put in place a simple process
2. Make sure that the CEO drives it and that his direct reports understand the importance to the CEO – not you as the change manager.  Afterall you are not their boss, he is.
3. Ensure that the topics are the type of content that management are comfortable and knowledgeable about
4. Provide a feedback loop, again this is part of the process, if there is a question that management do not know the answer to, there must be a formal easy process for them to follow to quickly obtain the answer and respond to the employee.
5. Team briefings should only take 15 minutes, they can also be incorporated into regular weekly meetings.

When it comes to cascading information in a face to face format via management remember that as with anything, there will be some topics that employees want to hear directly from the CEO and others they are happy to hear from their manager. This is why is my previous blog I mentioned that in my experience when it comes to significant issues such as retrenchments, closure of offices and merger of the company employees generally want to hear this from the person at the top. Day to day, week by week and month by month operational issues they are comfortable in hearing from their manager who manages their daily work.

We have an online version of a team briefing tool kit for you to use immediately. For more information visit www.teambriefingkit.com

 

As always I look forward to your comments.

Marcia

Managers and Supervisors are NOT the best communicators during change

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Everywhere you look these days the focus in Human Resources and Employee Communication is managing change within organizations. But most of these programs fail to achieve their objectives. During bad economic times the focus is usually on providing coaching to understand the emotions people go through during change, helping employees deal with the complex emotions of watching colleagues leave, communication strategies the utilise management hierarchies to communicate face to face with their teams on what is happening next in organizational restructures and so on.

The reason why this does not work is because the focus is on managing fear, not change. And this is why managers don’t follow through with the key messages and face to face discussions with their teams that you have so cleverly crafted. Yes.. I know that “studies” show that employees trust their immediate manager or supervisor more than anyone in the organization. Therefore it must follow that if you are designing a communication and change strategy focused on organizational restructures and downsizing the smart thing to do would be to utilize them as a key part of your face to face strategy.

Wrong. This is not the way to approach change during these times. Think about it. Here you have an entire organization paralysed with fear. Budget cuts all around, negative media speculation, no one is secure. And the only person who really knows what is being planned is the CEO. Is it any wonder, when you give a script for managers and supervisors to communicate to staff, their teams ask what’s going to happen with our jobs, and the manager or supervisor in the spirit of trust and honesty says, “I don’t know, I don’t even know what is going happen to me.” So this is why you need to take a different approach to face to face communication during these times.

I mentioned in my previous blog the need to focus the organization on growth and innovation strategies and thereby give specific accountabilities to managers and supervisors. During this time, whilst trying to balance negative news as well, your face to face strategy needs to utilise the CEO and not only at town hall forums. Here’s an example of a strategy I implemented during another “bad” economic time, when the organization had 9 new competitors in one year. The CEO met with each of the state managers of the business divisions individually. He explained to them honestly the reality of the situation and why he had to rely on them. He gave them specific requests of what he wanted from them and they in return delivered and stepped up and managed in some instances the total closure of state offices in true leadership style. We then held “Business Reality” workshops for one day in each state which all managers and supervisors attended. The CEO was present at each and shared with them real business data related to their state operations and the issues facing the organization and asked for their input in coming up with options and innovative ideas to grow the business.

The outcome was that despite going through extensive downsizing, restructures and everyone having to reapply for new roles, the business grew by 25% in that year. Obviously the strategy I designed was far more detailed than outlined above, but the purpose of this blog is share why I think managers and supervisors are not the best face to face communicators during times of change.