Organization communication responsibility can overlap human resources, marketing, public relations, sales, technical support, and top leadership roles. If a “one voice” agreement doesn’t exist at least in a general way to support the company mission and values, the department “silo effect” can spiral to a level unhealthy for the business. One company president I observed shut down messages he didn’t like by holding up his hand and stating, “That’s a boundary issue,” which was his way of telling marketing and sales he didn’t care what customers were asking for, he wanted his engineers to drive product development.
The result was continuous conflict, mixed messages both internally and externally, hundreds of thousands of dollars lost in prototype development for products customers didn’t want, and lost customers. Worse, high-performing customer service employees left that company over values disagreements.
At another company, customer and employee feedback is ignored if the owner is excited about a new product idea, even if the idea doesn’t fit their marketing strategy or clear 80/20 data. The employees responsible for the external company message are ignored internally. The message inconsistencies result in demotivated employees and external messages that dilute the focus on top-selling products.
In these types of situations, organization leaders may view structure and shared communication responsibility as a constraint on communication and decision making. However, increasing numbers of managers and supervisors are experiencing the benefits of structured communication as linked to information adequacy, desired outcomes, and relational satisfaction.
For example, I recently assisted one project manager in the development of a project management report template he will send out weekly. He was resistant because of the required consistency of shared information. However, the benefits are becoming evident. People know the update is coming, so they won’t have to constantly ask questions, and he will have more time to focus on the work. By asking other team leaders for their input on the template, they feel respected. Knowing he will be required to use the template has forced him to get more organized in thought and task execution.
Adding basic structure to your communication routine can minimize conflict by reducing the circumstances that create knee-jerk defensiveness. Don’t swing wide in the other direction and create communication overload. More information is not always “better”, so focus on the information which most impacts the people influenced by your role. This week focus on monitoring the effectiveness of your messages through these markers – does your communication:
– inhibit or enhance commitment?
– exclude or include stake holders?
– kill or build morale?
– ignore or honor organization mission and values?
– squash or invite idea sharing?