This blog is about the relationship between organizations and the people who work for them. And, it’s dedicated to the millions of people around the world who go to work every day wanting to do a great job.

Archive for August, 2010

Houston. We have a problem!

“E-mails and Intranet Are Top Communication Methods Used to Engage Employees”.  So reads the headline on an IABC News article.  What?

Recently, I spoke about Gary Hamel’s call to reinvent management.  In the webcast I refer to there, Gary talks about a global study of 90,000 employees around the world that was conducted by Towers Perrin and that showed that less than 20% of employees are engaged.  And, I think this IABC News headline may tell us why.  Or at least part of the why.

It seems that even though we keep saying communications isn’t about pushing messages, we continue to rely heavily on push technology and message sending.

In the world Gary describes.  A world where “obedience, diligence and intellect” aren’t enough to create a competitive advantage, organizations need employees to bring “initiative, creativity and compassion” to their work.  And, that isn’t going to happen because of e-mails and intranet.

How are we creating inspiring places to work? Places where people want to bring more of themselves.

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The hidden language of communication

As communicators we like to believe that the communication begins once we send the news release, change the banner on the intranet, distribute the communications tool kit for all managers, host the CEO in a virtual or real town hall, send the survey, publish the newsletter, or post the blog.

The truth is that for most important change or announcement the communication started well before, often [and sadly] long before the professional communications team was even involved.  The communication started when:  the President cleared their agenda for a week with no notice.  Or, when the GM started having way more/fewer than normal meetings behind closed doors with her most trusted advisors.  Or, when men in suits turn up unannounced at one of our distant locations.  Or, when shouting is heard coming from a boardroom during a strategic planning meeting.   Or, when the Director of Marketing who is due for a promotion is seen smiling for no apparent reason.

The bottom line is that communications in your organization are happening now with or without you.

Do you know what’s really being communicated in your organization?

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Starting with nothing

OK it’s late summer and I’m dreaming and I thought you might like to dream along with me.

Imagine you’ve been asked to help create a Corporate Internal Communications approach starting from nothing.  Let’s imagine this is a service business that has grown by acquisition.  It’s in a highly competitive market about to launch a new business model.  Cross-functional and cross-business collaboration will be critical.

The individual business units have relatively well developed Internal Communications.  But, until now global communications have been limited to the odd e-mail and quarterly conference calls.  There’s no global intranet.  There’s no global newsletter.  There’s no global employee survey.  There’s pretty much nothing at the global level – no systems, processes, tools or tactics.

You’ve got carte blanche.  What’s in and what’s out? I’d love to hear from you.

Update [August 20, 2010]:  Thanks to the gang at CommScrum LinkedIn for your great contribution to this question.

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Deborah Hinton Friday, August 20th, 2010
Permalink Corporate communication, Internal communication No Comments

What can we learn from Chef Gordon Ramsay?

It has food.  It has wine.  It has crazy characters.  It has drama.  So it had to happen.  Michael and I are now completely addicted to the original “Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares”.  We stopped watching television months ago.  Now we’re watching streaming video online.  And thanks to The Food Network we’re hooked on Chef Gordon Ramsay’s show.

Who knew how complicated running a restaurant could be?

And who knew that beside the food [Ramsay’s an advocate for fresh local ingredients and simple plates – a higher purpose for the customer], communication seems to be the most important ingredient for success.  And, perhaps surprisingly, I don’t mean marketing communication or PR.  I mean internal communication.

We’ve now watched about 8 episodes.  And with one exception – a brigade of experienced French chefs and service staff from Michelin starred restaurants who clearly knew what they were doing – the mantra of every show has been ‘Communicate!”

Ramsay’s challenge;  get communication going between:

  • Owners and employees
  • Front of house [service] and back of house [kitchen]
  • Within teams – front of house and back of house
  • Front of house and customers.
  • Once you get past his foul language, the man is masterful.  He starts by raising their awareness of, and gets them focused on, the customer experience.  A reality check.

    Then, he facilitates often profound change – he encourages, he cajoles, he demonstrates, he brings new and sometimes jarring perspective and insight, he’s rational, he’s emotional and slowly but surely most teams get it.

    No crafting of messages.  No pushing them out.  He just gets them speaking to each other.  He helps them get the right conversations/communications going in the right way and at the right time to ensure the best customer experience. Remarkably completely dysfunctional teams start working well together and end up delivering outstanding experience for their customer and each other.

    So, should we be spending more time as facilitator and less time as message pushers?  I’d love to hear what you think?

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    Deborah Hinton Tuesday, August 10th, 2010
    Permalink Change Management, Communication, Internal communication 1 Comment

    Great idea #1 – Mayo Clinic’s roving video reporter

    An occasional post on a really great idea for internal communications – simple and high impact.

    The Mayo Clinic is not only a globally recognized medical institution but it turns out they’re pretty accomplished communicators too.

    They’ve created the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media “to improve health globally by accelerating effective application of social media tools throughout Mayo Clinic and spurring broader and deeper engagement in social media by hospitals, medical professionals and patients.”  Now that is a great idea!

    And, one of the best internal communication ideas I’ve seen in a long time takes the old idea of a reporter at large and refreshes it creating a video reporter at large.

    A member of the Mayo Clinic’s internal communication team [i.e. an employee] roams the halls and interviews staff and patients with a videographer in tow.  The reporter happens to be fun and charismatic.  The choices of topics interesting and aligned to their overall brand positioning.  Scripted and unscripted.  And the pacing just right.  And, bonus, they post it on YouTube and link it on their website, getting both internal and external impact.  It really works.

    The Mayo Clinic’s approach is a real contrast to the usual talking heads and static interview style of most internal videos.  A simple idea.  Executed well.  It’s great.  Take a look.

    YouTube Preview Image

    Now, this production is pretty snazzy.  So for those of you who are thinking – yes, but…  here are a couple of things to think about.

    1:  Hand held cameras create videos people really trust, so, maybe the production values in most other contexts would actually work against it in some way.

    2:  You can produce professional looking video at very low cost today.  What it takes is a little imagination. My 15 year old nephew Matthew is making great video productions using a 3 year old JVC camera and using editing software he got online.  He doesn’t even use an external mike.

    The potential’s incredible.  So, grab your teenager’s video camera and editing software.  Find yourself the right stories and the right employee reporter and go.  Have some fun!

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    Oh dear, what can the matter be?

    E-mails and Intranet Are Top Communication Methods Used to Engage Employees”.  Oh dear.

    In my last post I spoke about Gary Hamel’s call to reinvent management.  In the webcast I refer to there, Hamel talks about a global study of 90,000 employees around the world that was conducted by Towers Perrin and that showed that less than 20% of employees are engaged.  I think this IABC News headline, above, may tell us why.  Or at least part of the why.

    We talk about communications as being more than crafting and sending messages.  And yet, this new survey just released by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Research Foundation and Buck Consultants makes it  clear,  We still rely heavily on push technology and message sending.

    And, in case we needed more evidence, the IABC article goes on to say that “32 percent of survey respondents indicate that their organizations rarely or never conduct employee listening activities”.  Oh dear.

    In the world Hamel describes.  A world where “obedience, diligence and intellect aren’t enough to create a competitive advantage, any more, organizations need employees to bring initiative, creativity and compassion to their work.”  And, that “isn’t going to happen if  we command it.”  It isn’t going to happen because of e-mails and intranet.  It isn’t going to happen if we aren’t listening.  Oh dear, what can the matter be?

    What do we need to do to create inspiring work places? Places where people want to bring more of themselves.

    Is it possible?  Is there a role for communications in creating inspiring places to work?  If so, what is it?  How do you see it?


    Something to read and think about

    Bill Jensen, Work 2.0:  Rewriting the contract, Perseus Publishing, Cambridge, 2002

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    Management innovation = Communication innovation

    Another wake up call.

    I just tuned in to Gary Hamel’s recent webinar [ironically - given the closing line to last week's post - called]: Lighting the Fires of Management Innovation.[1] In it he describes how Management innovation was once the source of significant competitive advantage.  But, most management innovation took place in the very late 19th and very early 20th century.

    So, if we are going to effectively tackle the urgent challenges of today, we need a fundamental reinvention of underlying management principles and practices.  And, we need to create this ‘management advantage’ at a time when the pace of change – political, economic, social, and technological – is increasing.

    How?  Well according to Hamel it will take courage.  The courage to:

    • Take on big and noble problems
    • Question dogma
    • Learn from positive deviance [he refers specifically to the ethos of the web and the values that he believes must infiltrate management]
    • Start small – we need to be able to be both revolutionary and evolutionary at the same time.

    [echos of Grassroots thinking]

    Innovation in communication – the communications function and the communications themselves – will be absolutely fundamental to the reinvention of management.

    As communicators it’s sometimes easy to be a little complacent around the idea of communication innovation.  After all the past decade has brought significant and important innovation to how we do communications.  The number and kinds of navigation tools, distribution channels, communication tools and tactics that are available grows exponentially.

    But the kind of innovation that Hamel is calling for asks us to fundamentally rethink what we do.  Are we taking on or encouraging our organizations to take on big and noble ideas?  Do we question dogma – ours and others?  Are we learning from positive deviance?  Do we start small or are we caught up in one system wide campaign after another?

    Are we ready to take this challenge on? As a profession?  As executives and managers? As advisors to leadership?  As employees and as voices for employees and other key stakeholders?

    I’d love to hear what you think.  [the conversation continues]


    [1] You need to be registered on the Management Innovation Exchange to access it, but it’s well worth it.

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