09 Apr '13
Communication is everyone's job
Posted by T.J. Addington in communication
Communication is one of those things that is an ongoing challenge for every organization. We will never get it perfect and will never satisfy everyone's needs. Yet we cannot ignore it because good communication promotes trust while poor communication promotes mistrust.
A common compliant in larger churches or organizations that have seen significant growth is: "I don't know everything anymore." My response in my own organization is "I don't either." Further, I want to know what I need to know, not everything there is to know. That is a crucial difference.
In the black and white, preglobalized, pre-email world, communication was by necessity top down. Leaders would determine what people needed to know and they would - with different degrees of success - disseminate it down through the organization. By doing so, we trained staff that what they needed to know they would hear from their leaders. In addition, it was assumed that what we needed leaders to know would be shared back up the organizational ladder.
In an era of meetings, letters and expensive travel, it made sense. But it was cumbersome at best and often, information did not get to where it needed to go.
Globalization, with its technology changes everything. When my son was in college and doing a report on marketing, he simply found the contact information to the head of marketing at Best Buy and went directly to his source! In fact, for the under thirty generation today, there is an expectation that they can find out whatever they want to find out and share whatever they want to share. Blogs, email, twitter, Facebook have supplanted the hierarchical view of communications for them. As a student, anyone who wanted to know what Jon thought of his professors could simply read his blog.
In this new world the rules of communication have changed even though not everyone has understood that. Here are the new rules:
One: If I need information I will go out and get it.
Two: If I have information others need I will communicate that information to those who need to know.
Three: Information flow is not inhibited or determined by hierarchical structures - the information world is flat.
Four: I won't and don't need to know everything - but do need to know those things that pertain to my work.
Five: Relationships still matter. Face to face discussion - even via video is better than email.
Six: Everyone is responsible for information flow up, down and sideways today.
In many ways, Microsoft invented a flat organization and has been a huge key to their success. GM never discovered a flat organization which is why they went through bankruptcy.
Finally, the best organizations not only promote and encourage the open flow of information and ideas but are "democratic in their attitude." New ideas, push back or criticism don't bother them. What bothers them is when people are not honest because in the milieu of ideas the best ideas come from mutual collaboration.