Executive Excellence Series (5 of 50): Assuming that Communication Can be Controlled

October 29, 2017

The bad news is you can't control all the communication that takes place in your organization. But, you have to try.

In the article, Executives: Get Top Performance from Your Contractors and Remote Teams by Communicating Culture, I wrote about how important it is that your workers at home, in other countries, and even in other states are made a part of your company's culture through communication. Conversely, if that communication doesn't have ground rules and adherence to them, misrepresented or misinterpreted voice and digital communication can cause catastrophic breakdowns in relationships and processes.

This is what you need to do -- (and DMAIC the system regularly: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control, or you won't keep control):

  • All the news that is important to share with your peers and employees (both good and bad, internal and external) should be shared by you, not anyone else.
  • Kick the email habit and talk with your people instead of emailing at them -- then you'll know how what you're saying is being received.
  • Establish protocols for your peers and teams for communicating company-related information, for example:
    • List what types of information are sensitive, proprietary, internal, external, etc.
    • Code the information types by who can and can't make those types of communications.
    • Define what types of communication must be signed off by you or another superior.
  • Specify what communication chains must be recorded, and kept on record (i.e. email threads, voice encounters that must be fully documented, etc.).
  • Maintain a code of communication conduct that outlines what styles of interpersonal communications are approved and unauthorized (i.e. gossip about coworkers should be forbidden).
  • Identify people, you and your team have ready access to, who are familiar with business relationships in certain countries and cultures, and can help craft messages out to people working in other cultures.
  • Create a non-personal intranet for employees to use internally to communicate company matters -- this intranet is not private, it is for the purpose of doing and recording work; cloud-based project management applications are great for this.
  • Monitor employee communications.

These are fundamental practices to any organization. You'll also need to evaluate the special characteristics of your business and create additional protocols proprietary to it. The combination of protocols and implementing them will reduce the risk associated with communication gone astray. However, if you don't DMAIC your communication control system, it will break down and you won't know it until something goes wildly wrong enough to force your involvement.

Additional Reading

A Key Building Block for Successfully Implementing Lean/World-Class Value Stream Management: Communications, Ron Crabtree

Business communications problems I often see that undermine operational excellence initiatives and how I resolve them, Kevin Kohls


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