If you find that your message is simply not getting across, then consider these ten innovative ways to improve communication in your organisation.
“Communication is poor in our company.”
“Management say one thing and do another.”
“We are always the last to be told anything around here.”
“The grapevine is more reliable than our formal communication system.”
You would be hard pushed to find a book on successful management in a book shop
anywhere in the world that doesn’t mention the importance of good communication in managing an organisation. Many of these books prescribe solutions to communication problems. Many of them offer nothing new, pointing to the need for a company newsletter, for electronic mail, for cutting out the paperwork, for better consultation, and so on.
Many of these ideas have been tried by managers to varying degrees of success.
Here, in the 1990s, the same solutions are still being prescribed as organisations search for excellence. Unfortunately, many of the same complaints which have dogged companies for years still persist.
Below are ten further ideas for improving communication in your organisation. I hope you haven’t heard them before! If you like them, try them out, and pass them on!
Ten Innovative Ideas For Improving Communication
1. Treat secrecy as a problem – a quality problem. Apply the techniques of problem solving and quality improvement to secrecy in order to find ways to open up the issue of secrecy, and to deal with excessive levels of confidentiality.
2. Create communication areas using office and factory floor space creatively – with notice boards, video screens, leaflets etc. – at waiting areas in the organisation e.g. at coach stands, queuing lines, entrances and exits, the inside of the lavatory door…
3. Create some in-company logos which will become known over time – make them clear and interesting to look at; e.g. one for announcements, one for safety procedures, one for performance data. Use colour to enhance the effect. For example, an aeroplane logo can be used for statements of company policy.
4. Create a “What I’d like to know” box which collects questions for managers in a box (perhaps several boxes). Guarantee a reply within seven days. This is not a suggestion box – it is about responding to questions. This can be done either confidentially with a box, or you could have a questions board (though there is a danger this could become a graffiti board).
5. Design and create workspaces which are neither based on offices nor
personalised desks. These are rooms or areas with desks and tables and
supporting resources (such as phones, faxes, computers, stationery etc.) which belong to no one. The incentive to use these areas rests on their technical facilities and user-friendly design. Some firms now operate entirely like this!
6. Hold “myth-exploding” sessions. These are forty minute team meetings, held occasionally, where prejudices, complaints, rumours etc. are surfaced, arguments take place, heated debate and discussion is encouraged. Beyond the obvious therapeutic value, they provide an excellent opportunity to ‘clear the air’.
7. Create a Visit Programme in which every person in the organisation undertakes to spend a certain period of time (e.g. an hour or half a day) visiting a part of the organisation about which they know least, or they are most interested in.
If each department takes part, then it is in the interest of everyone to participate. A lot of mutual understanding and experience sharing will take place, and communication needs will be better identified.
8. Build a clause into job contracts which makes secrecy a disciplinary offence. This should apply to everyone in the organisation. Any exceptions (e.g. for reasons of commercial sensitivity) should be clearly stated at the job interview, in the contract, and during induction. Try to create an ethic of non-secrecy.
9. Buy everyone in the organisation a personal organiser and share diaries in teams at the beginning of each week. Allow diary time for this! During the meeting, each person has a turn to spend about five minutes “walking everyone through” his or her personal week ahead.
10. Remove all doors from their hinges and throw them out. Only break this rule if absolutely necessary (e.g. for legal or commercial reasons). It is no good just leaving doors open – this will not last long – they must be removed completely.
And finally… these ideas will need to be adapted to your own organisational context. There are no hard-and-fast rules. You may need to persevere with some but the long term benefits will prove worthwhile. Continuous improvement will be the key to success in the long run.