Tagged: communication

Forty three (i)

Saket made some comments about organizations becoming increasingly biomorphic; i.e. resembling living organisms. These contributions didn’t make the final report because the comments were fleeting and came just as everyone was becoming more interested in the afternoon break, but I thought you’d like them. They’ve definitely fuelled the dinner conversation between Dom and me.

One biomorphic metaphor treats everyone as if they were a synapse in the brain. Important messages are passed across the synapse and less important ones don’t make it. The same goes for sharing information around the organization. Whereas traditional business relies on some bureaucracy to determine what constitutes organizational knowledge, this function is delegated to the individual who now determines whether something is worth sharing / passing on or not, explicitly or tacitly.

Apparently, this has serious ramifications for the organization’s hierarchy in so much as there won’t be one. Or more precisely, the organization will have the right structure at the right time; today’s will suit today’s environment, tomorrow’s will suit tomorrow’s.

Attenzi isn’t ready for this.

I think Saket sensed as much and suggested it was indeed time for coffee. And no one argued. But John, Yvonne, Saket and I continued the thread during the break.

“Saket, that last bit was a bit out there!” John said.

“’Out there’ as in down the road, or ‘out there’ as in way off the money?” Saket asked with characteristic precision.

“Well, I mean, compared to our understanding today of our use of our information network.”

“Yes, that’s a good point,” Saket replied. “So when we map the information network we find it is, inevitably, far from what anyone might ever describe as perfect – information is in the wrong place and wrong format at the wrong time – and we’re left short of knowing exactly what to do about it. ‘Let’s communicate more!’ we all shout, as if this old truism is somehow going to solve the problem without further cutting into the time we’re actually supposed to be doing stuff.”

We nodded in agreement.

“Would anyone like more meetings? More email?”

We shook our heads in agreement.

Twenty six (ii)

The same can be said for person-to-person communications, but it seemed more obvious in this context to also include the outcome where some one changes what they would have thought otherwise. Or is there just a time lag between thinking differently and consequently doing something differently?

And then of course some communication is initiated because the communicator wants to find out stuff in order to think or act differently than otherwise herself. A communicator seeks to influence and/or seeks to be influenced.

Sensitized to the science and art of communication, I decided to walk with Saket out to his car. And, I think, sensing this, Saket decided to be a bit mischievous. Pulling away with his window wound down, he shouted: “And remember, mathematics is the only universal language – Contact, 1997.”

To this day I don’t know if Saket was just jesting or knew this quote would land a punch. I remember revisiting more of my conversation with John as I walked back to my office and realizing it was a conversation not yet finished.

Twenty six (i)

I listened as Saket, Tom and Yvonne talked about how written and spoken communication has become increasingly complex. We have so many ways to communicate now that picking the medium and format can be half the battle.

Yvonne refers to it as a chocolate box paradox where the choice is somewhat bewildering – rather than just diving in for instant gratification, investing time over selection can enhance the results significantly. I want the delicious praline rather than the insipid crème. I want the optimum medium and format of communication to exert the influence I need, rather than the easiest or most convenient medium and format, which may result in poor communication and zero influence. Or worse.

I admit to resorting to email in the past when face-to-face communication would have been preferable. Was it for convenience or the avoidance of an awkward situation? The latter dressed up as the former I think. Email isn’t the format for delicate, nuanced criticism, so little wonder then that the recipient thought me too blunt, blunting our relationship in consequence.

Yvonne says that effective written and spoken communication requires us to think about five dimensions:

The what? – the content; and not too little, or too much

The when? – timing can be (nearly) everything

The who? – precise selection of audience / recipients

The how? – choice of communications medium (eg, face-to-face, telephone, email, SMS, blog post)

And more how? – presentation style and structure.

Together we reeled off a dozen communications media in as many seconds. Consider these in combination with the other dimensions and you begin to understand why effective communication isn’t easy.

“The more people that get this, the more effective our team can be,” she concluded. Everyone’s in communications, I thought to myself.

Effective? My mind went back to my conversation with John (IT) where we mooted that the effectiveness of translating data into information and information into knowledge might be gauged by whether anyone changes what they would have done otherwise.

Twenty five

“Ninety percent of what you’re saying isn’t coming out of your mouth – Hitch, 2005.”

Saket, the BPM consultant with a love of movie quotes, was back on site. It was apparent that everyone considers him one of the Attenzi team, albeit one who isn’t around all the time. He was meeting with Tom (HR) and Yvonne (PR) to discuss internal communications and performance.

Most people consider the role of measurement in the most straightforward terms, to tell us how well we’re doing what we’re doing. But this is just part of the equation according to Saket.

The quote from Hitch was Saket’s way of highlighting that what you decide to measure and how you decide to measure it communicates your expectations. It ranks alongside other such non-verbal signals as attitude, behavior, presentation, process design, culture etc.

People perform as they are measured, so if you want them to perform individually and in groups in particular ways – and which organization doesn’t – then define your measures diligently.

Measurement is important communication that guides performance that delivers strategy that pursues the vision.

Saket was keen to stress the importance of such multi-faceted communications, and wasn’t particularly charitable to leaders who believe people always want to hear them spouting off as if that’s the only and sufficient way to point the organization in the right direction and get it to move that way. “Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking – The Wizard of Oz, 1939.”