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Archive for June, 2011

Employee Communication: How to bridge the silos

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

One of the interesting aspects I find in the work I do with clients is the amount of vertical communication that takes place rather than horizontal communication.

With most topics we communicate it logically from the top – the CEO down and we think that we’ve done a great job because everyone at the front line is understands how their roles connects with the organization’s focus.  And in most instances we have feedback loops to check whether the audience understood what we have communicated.

However I suggest that the real value in employee communication is the horizontal conversations that we often neglect.  For more examples of what I mean by horizontal communication that demonstrates the enterprise wide story click here. This is what gives an enterprise life because the focus in how the sum of each contributes to the whole.

Instead of focussing on silos by division everyone starts to focus on the enterprise as a whole.  Here’s an example of what I mean in this case study from the motor industry.

The objective

This organization decided to use videoconferencing to reach five of its major corporate offices.

The company was introducing a new vehicle line, and wanted to spread the news on how excited the employees were about it to their dealer network. Although they could have chosen a newsletter or DVD to get this message across, it would not have been as credible as this choice. One of the main target audiences was a 400-strong dealer network, and the organization wanted them to see first-hand how enthusiastic the 400 employees at the business headquarters were about this new line.

The Method:

So an interactive link was established between these two groups. The opportunity was there for conversation and direct answers to any questions the dealers might want to put forward. Another key factor to the success of this approach was the installation of television monitors at the organizations’ other four regional offices, which enabled 400 more employees to be included in the dealer meeting for the first time. Although they were not able to communicate with the other two groups, they were able to experience the essence of the company and how it sells its product.

This was the first time the employees had the opportunity to be a part of the organization’s “big picture.”  Another reason for having the employees present was for them to hear the senior management speeches from their location. Therefore, the benefits of this operation were threefold: the dealers were able to feel and hear the employees’ enthusiasm for the new vehicle; the employees were able to see how the company communicated with its dealership to obtain maximum sales; and, the employees and dealers were able to hear the speeches of senior management.

The Outcome:

This approach is as example of a communication approach for companies that want to communicate the enterprise wide story and connect the dots for their audience. By demonstrating to employees the “other side” of the business, specifically marketing and distribution, all the elements that make this organization successful are clearly outlined.

No matter what size organization the concept on communicating horizontally and not just vertically will make a significant impact on your organizations’ goals and achievements of the company vision.  For more examples of how many other sectors have implemented enterprise wide communication click here.

Change Management: It’s not what you do it’s the way that you do it

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

As I see it there are two ways to manage change within organisations.  One of those is to constantly communicate information about what is happening and to collect information to inform your change activities.  The other is to engage leaders and employees in the process of change so that communication takes place rather than information and you create a paradigm shift that the change process is owned by the leaders and employees in the organisation, not the change manager.

So here are a few examples of what I mean.  Let’s say as part of the change process you decide to undertake a stakeholder analysis.  There are two ways of managing this, the first is to get a template and circulate it via email and ask managers to complete it.  If they have filled out the form they will let you know who the stakeholders are, what their issues are likely to be, how they recommend they are communicated with and how frequently.  Another way of doing a stakeholder analysis is to use the same template but this time with the leadership group in the room facilitate a session where they have to discuss and reach agreement on all of the issues.  This is definitely going to create a more robust conversation and sense of ownership.  After the session as part of the signoff process you distribute the outcomes of the session via email and ask the leadership team to confirm via email that they are happy with the content of the stakeholder analysis. Both of these actions create a sense of ownership and responsibility that you would not have had if you used the first approach and just circulated the stakeholder analysis template via email or completed it by having brief one on one discussions.

Another part of the change process for any project is around risks and issues.  It would be easy for any change manager to sit down and complete on their own or with the HR manager the people risks and issues during any change process.  However you want the leadership team to own the people risks and issues, and even before this step to understand that there are risks and issues regarding employees and they should identify what they might be and what mitigation strategies they suggest.  And then after all of this they assign various members of their leadership team to have accountability to deal with the risk should it escalate as an issue.  So again if you facilitate a session with the leadership team to complete the risks and issues template you are creating another paradigm shift in thinking about their accountability for the change process to be successful.

And this is the difference, it is subtle but the results are significant. You will never achieve engagement with the leadership team for owning the people issues around change if you do all the work for them.  You need to get them thinking, talking, discussing, arguing and finally owning the people issues regarding change if you are going to have any level of real success.

As always I am interested in your comments and feedback about the approaches you have found worked in engaging leaders to own the change process in your organisation.