Communication, communication, communication

This post has been inspired by my reflections on my experiences with a range of projects in the past which has confirmed to me the importance of communication in ensuring whether a project is successful or not. I thought it might be helpful to bring these together in a single summary as communication is so important.

When dealing with a major change programme it will be very rare to get all of the communication right – but it is extremely easy to get it completely wrong. My personal definitions of getting it wrong are:

  1. only sharing information with an ‘inner circle’ of the great and the good and then expecting the other people who are affected by the changes to just take it without complaint.
  2. giving out information only when there is something significant to say or a big change happening – the rumour mill will take over as communication will happen whether you want it to or not. People will always want to know what is happening so if you don’t tell them (even if all you are saying is ‘there is nothing to say’ they will fill the void.
  3. limiting the information that is given out to very bland or basic statements – it is important to be as open and honest as you can be (although there will always be sensitive items they need to be shared with the people affected as soon as possible, confidentially if necessary).
  4. giving out information on an irregular basis so people never know when they are likely to find out what is happening next.
  5. giving different messages to different people – so that when they compare what is said they do not believe any of what they have been told even if the messages are correct and have just been expressed in different ways.
  6. missing significant groups of people out of the whole communication process.
  7. only putting the information into a single format that not everyone can access (like the filing cabinet in the basement in “Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy” by Douglas Adams.

I have shared my reflections on better ways of communicating in a range of previous posts:

In summary the ways in which you can ensure that communication is a positive force in the work you do are to:

  1. have a clear communication plan which is agreed and signed up to by all partners
  2. include all of the people who are to be communicated with
  3. include all of the ways in which the communication will be handled
  4. make the dissemination routes for the information as wide and inclusive as possible
  5. have a clear timetable for communication – never less than once a month – and keep to it. It can change at different times in the project and may come down to once a day at significant points
  6. agree the wording that is going to be used – either in advance in the communication plan or, if it is something that has to be done quickly agree who will have the responsibility for composing the communication to be used.
  7. be consistent

What have I missed? I would be interested to hear your experiences of communication in your work life. If you would like to do a guest post please get in touch.

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There’s no such thing as a new idea or common sense is not very common

Just old ideas continually recycled!

I am currently doing a postgraduate qualification in Shared Service Architecture with Canterbury Christchurch University. My second piece of work is a literature review and I have chosen to look at successful governance in shared services. It has to be an academic piece of work so the literature reviewed must come from academically sound journals.

The first thing I found was that Shared Services by that name have not been round long enough to have academic studies done on them. The second thing I found out was that there are a lot of academic reviews into a whole range of joint working – which Shared Services is just the latest sexy title/ method of doing. Hence the title of this post.

Each of the new iterations of the joint (or collaborative) working phenomenon is presented as a whole new way of working. This,sadly, seems to mean that the wheel keeps being reinvented. I cannot see very much evidence of practice being based on the considerable learning and information that has been collected about previous iterations. This is despite the fact that a number of key issues keep coming up regularly:

  1. The need for Trust which is very difficult to develop when organisations and people are put into ‘forced marriages’ by government policy and financial incentives. They are much more likely to work together successfully if they develop the collaboration gradually and together.
  2. Which leads me the need for Time to develop the partnership – how often are organisations forced to do things quickly because of the political and financial pressures
  3. The final one is that there needs to be a jointly agreed reason or series of reasons for working together – the main one being that the sum of the whole is greater than each organisation working separately.

These key factors come up again and again, and yet the same mistakes and issues keep being repeated!

Although I say there is no such thing as a new idea, each version of working together is subtly different and called different things which is why I have not used the same words to describe the joint working throughout  this post. 

The issues, however, are rarely different so my plea to anyone coming up with a ‘new’ way of working is please take the time to look at the similar predecessors to your idea and use them to stop repeating the same mistakes.

This is the principle I will be using when I qualify as a Shared Service Architect as one of the key principles for this professional role is to use the learning from previous shared working to improve the development and planning of future shared services.