Communication, Process and Current Practises

By Hanns Kohler-Kruner posted 04-26-2010 12:59


During a recent project we did a spider web chart with a mixed group of IT and non-IT people. We did the exercise to try and find out what were the most important inhibitors to moving forwards. It is really quite simple as an exercise, but it needs some explanation.

We try to figure out how people perceive their own organisations, as a first step to realising that things need to change if collaboration and Enterprise 2.0 types of scenarios are to be supported

Process, Current Practises, Procedures, Innovation, Technology, Industry and a few others are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5. Each participant judges these for themselves and then the results get compared. It is a basic exercise but the results always end up being a real eye-opener.

This time it was once more the old stand-in of communication that came up ‘trumps’ once more.  

When you think about it - not really surprising. Communication across boundaries of the organisation, up and down the hierarchy is often one of the real expressions of an organisation not being ready for an Enterprise 2.0 approach. There are people in the know and a marketing department that may send out a newsletter every now and then, but here often is no corporate strategy that deals with the need for talking and exchanging information, laying the cross-links and opening up channels for knowledge to flow. This customer had the same self-identified challenge, just like the 3 before. An E2.0 strategy however relies on this communication more than anything else in my opinion.

So where do you start with this improvement to communicate? The simple answer is: Look where you are already doing this and then make it take off from there. Often it is the coffee-corner where a lot of information gets exchanged; build a digital coffee corner then. The support for this needs both a top down as well as a bottom up approach. Letting go of control and allowing your employees the chance to not only share their stories, but also to support both successes and not crack down on mistakes are important tasks for a management within an enterprise 2.0 environment. It is partially giving up control of the normal flows of information.

As for the bottom up, there is a need to identify those that are already doing it. For an organization this may mean finding those that are already active outside of the organization and letting them share this, or letting the Skunkworks be supported fully by the existing infrastructure so employees do not have to find the answers outside of the firewall, thereby undermining a concerted effort for more open communication.

There are a few other important considerations with communication. It should always be 2-way which means not just talk, but also listen. Listen to what people want to hear and what kind of things they are looking for. One of the complaints often is that it is the wrong kind of information, at the wrong time or in the wrong format.  Do some thorough research about what is making people judge your communication so low in the spider chart. Make the distinction between internal and external communication and draw in those that feel they have some ideas about this.

It is only a small step but something that maybe should precede a lot of talk about Enterprise 2.0 as it deals with one of the fundamental weaknesses at the heart of way too many organizations!

How have you dealt with this issue in the past, any good suggestions on how to work on this? I am always looking forwards to hear from you, the readers, so fire away.

Next time current Practises and Process – getting things done right.