Ask any organization, company, institution or perhaps even a marriage and the topic of communication or the lack of will quickly come to the surface.
Even those organizations that have very robust communication methodologies the employees still complain that not enough communication is being done. So what are we to do ... may we offer some tips and tricks and destroy some myths.
You post a Memo and Assume it will be read
NOT!! you have absolutely no evidence or physical feed-back to advise you that it has been read and if you decide to invoke accountability the employee escape route is "I didn't see/read the memo"
Corrective Action | While at Toyota we were all assigned a name stamp and it was instilled into our DNA that whatever you decided to read it needed to be stamped with your name stamp ... so as we walked the aisles if we noticed a black ring forming around the parameter of a memo we visually knew that the memo/graph/notice had been read. If you don't have name stamps ask your employees to initial the bottom of the posting.
Communication should have a shelf Life
It really is something simple to fix. I cannot tell you how many times when i wander facilities that i find notices were posted eons ago and sometimes even signed by a company official that has either retired or even died. REMEMBER, people become immune to thier surrounding after 21 days ... so any notice staying up longer than that i can guarantee is not being read.
Corrective Action | When you date the notice of when it was written you should also automatically include a date for when the notice should be removed. Even those regulatory required notices are usually required to be reviewed on an annual basis so yes they also have a due date.
Don't Waste My Time
I dislike an unorganized communication board and if it is cluttered how am i going to even know if something new has been added?
Corrective Action | Include a "Board Owner" tag on your communication board with the picture of the board owner using their picture a communication link (e-mail, phone number) and most important the date of when the board was last updated ... so simple so effective. Also important is that everything including process needs to have an owner, an individual not a department which can hold accountable.
Town Hall meetings are .... ??
It is mostly a feel good for the senior management team because quite frankly the retention rate is typically low. But i do not want to dismiss the value of hosting such an event since it is a great venue for communicating awareness of the state of the business, upcoming policy changes or decisions that have been made.
Corrective Action | create focus groups after the town hall meeting to create feed-back of the topics communicated along with concerns or accolades and then make sure you communicate the feed-back.
Newsletters ... require a lot of effort
I love newsletters to keep the community updated. But again you need to make sure that the communication being published is not stale, it needs to be engaging and keep it short.
Corrective Action | In the formative years of Lean Thoughts i restricted content to 2 pages which is an easy quick read (under 3 minutes) so i knew i had a good chance people would read the whole thing.
SOME POSITIVE PROACTIVE COMMUNICATION METHODS
Convert those Meaningless meetings
We have all of endured them at one time or more. Sitting in a room with your peers discussing nonsense without a purpose or a conclusion. Some may even feel that the meeting is important like your Daily Production Meeting which more like a spiritual event where dang we complain why we were not able to meet yesterday's plan but how we hope and pray that today is going to be much better ... Yeah, bring me a box of Kleenex.
Worked for a boss who really did get it about meetings. It was forbidden to call a meeting until it was defined what decision had to me made or a policy to be implemented. So very simple ask for your meetings, come with an agenda and the desired outcomes (decisions to be made) and leave with the Decision made, which includes a timeline and of course an Action Plan with the names of people responsible.
Don't Preach ... dialogue
I am a big fan of quick stand-up meetings. My favorite immediate deployment when i take over an organization is to instill my suite of daily meetings usually encompassing Shift Exchange (dialogue and hand-off between shifts), Shift Start (with all tram members present to reflect on yesterday's team performance to plan and today's expectations and finally the Daily Management Report-Out. My wrinkle is that i want our team to provide and communicate any concerns related to Health & Safety, Quality and Production ... no need to provide a corrective action ... just post the concern. During the Management Report-Out we will then as a management team determine a Corrective Action and who will be responsible. Notice i said "WHO" again not a department since i have never been able to personally hold a department on the individuals inside.
Corrective Action | Implement the suite of Daily Management and see your employee engagement soar (hard to measure) and watch your productivity improve by 20-30% within weeks. Take a peek at what we normally suggest https://www.kunstsolutions.com/product-page/report-out-kit-portable
Focus Groups and Campaigns bring energy
Many years ago i was struggling through a slump in business and knew that a head-count adjustment would be required. But !! my material yield was also not exactly the best and thanks to the support of our business shareholders i was able to re-allocate my potential loss of people to focus on improving our material yield to off-set their employment expense ... but WOW !!! they knocked it out of the park by almost 3 times of our initial goal.
At another organization we were committed to advancing our Lean Methodology maturity but just lacked the time and resources. Our solution was to Create "Learning and Apply weeks. Yes, it took a lot of preparation in advance but then did we have fun ... we cancelled all meetings so our office team could go and staff our work centers while the team members were provided training and after being trained they were given assignments to show comprehension of what they had just learned ... But wait ... it did not stop there we had a contest with prizes for best example, most improved, most innovative and many others.
Corrective Action | Do not ever, ever underestimate what your people can do. Every person always wants to be part of a winning team so share your Leadership pain within your team and relish in the solutions provided. Similar you need to keep raising the bar to constantly increase your organizational intellect ... better that they are highly trained and may leave than to never offer training and they stay.
Happy Birthday and how to lasso that dang rumour mill
The person that invents a communication methodology that works as fast as a rumor mill will most likely become filthy rich and in very high demand by everyone not only companies but most likely even nations ... but we still are seeking that person so what else can we do ...
HAPPY BIRTHDAY ... of course this cause of celebration and of course you deserve to be treated extra special in the spot-light so to speak. But we can also leverage these people's special days to help our general communication.
I worked at a company that had a monthly Birthday Club and our President was very very committed to this program. At the start of the month of your Birthday and invitation was presented for you to attend the Birthday Club meeting ... well it was called an invitation but it was mandatory to attend , but once you were there you wanted to be there. On the RSVP part of the invitation you were asked what topics you wanted additional insight on Product, Policies, Benefits, other and then that great final request to get clarification ... ready? "Any truth to the rumor ...."
After i attended one session where people spent 45 minutes complaining about the onions being served in our cafeteria salad ... i commented to our President after the meeting that i thought the session was a waste of time. To my surprise he immediately responded that if the only thing people are complaining about is the onions in the salad then we must be doing a pretty good job in both communication and leadership ... Touché!
Corrective Action | no matter how big or small your group is i would encourage you to have a Birthday Club. I theory you will be meeting with 1/12 TH of your population monthly and then let the rumour mill continue to broadcast the contents of the meeting to others. Asking that very simple question of "is there any truth to the Rumour" is a powerful question and will definitely solicit concerns maybe not yet on the radar
Ultimately it is about the science of Precision Speaking and Generous Listening
Once during a Leadership Training event i vividly recal our instructor telling us that "Anger is the highest state of Commitment" Huhhhh ? But when explained when you really care about something or someone and they go aray it is very easy to get angry. I could tolerate my employees being slightly messy but if i came home and found the kid had tossed his jacket on a chair ... I could go ballistic at the speed of light.
That Generous Listening or as the RLG tells me "Selective Hearing" is always going to a challenge if people do not like what is being said or it is boring the hearing stops ... period. Your challenge is to test for understanding and that my friends can only be accomplished by having people repeat back to you what has just been told. I have used this trick many times by picking someone from the audience to give a brief summary of what has just been communicated and then ask the group for additional insights ... message retention will escalate from 20 to 40%+
Did you hear me? and did you get some ideas, tips or tricks that you can immediately implement? Let me know what ... Please or send me additional ideas.