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.
People and relationships are at the core of all organizational strategies.
This means an adequately thorough and complete stakeholder analysis is key. If the stakeholder analysis is weak then so too is the strategy. And stakeholder analysis starts with adequate segmentation.
Segmentation doesn‚Äôt start with a list of generic stakeholders. It starts with a deep understanding of who will be impacted by what you are planning, saying, doing?¬† And how they will be impacted.
Seems so obvious, and yet it‚Äôs not.¬† In the past few weeks I was asked to pull together work of several other consultants to create an integrated strategic framework that would help identify gaps and overlaps in the work and thinking that had been done so far.
Communication was just one of 6 strategic priorities but every other priority had a significant communication component. Three consultants had already prepared three separate plans – media relations, government relations and fund development.
Each plan referred to their own key stakeholder, but not one of them adequately developed the segmentation. Instead, they were almost generic.
It‚Äôs a government relations plan so the target is government. No differentiation between Federal, provincial though both could impact the outcomes for this organization. No reference to which specific ministries. No differentiation between elected and non-elected politicians, or bureaucrats [senior and junior]. Even though each of these segments would have different and important impact on the work of this organization.
None of the plans did any more than a superficial analysis of this already thin segmentation. Instead of really thinking about what the client organization was trying to achieve in relationship to each of the segmented stakeholders, again, plans fell back into generic descriptions and no real analysis.
Even cutting an orange into segments takes some thought and skill…
And, the sad thing is, this failure to segment stakeholders and do some pretty fundamental analysis is not unusual.
The result. Bland planning and a focus on tools and tactics.
No strategy at all.
If you want to be strategic, then developing mastery in the art of segmentation is a good place to start.
According to “Engage for success“, a government initiative designed to increase employee engagement across the UK, ¬†there are¬†four enablers of employee engagement:
- Visible, empowering leadership providing a¬†strong strategic narrative¬†about the organisation, where it‚Äôs come from and where it‚Äôs going.
- Engaging managers¬†who focus their people and give them scope, treat their people as individuals and coach and stretch their people
- There is¬†employee voice¬†throughout the organisation, for reinforcing and challenging views, between functions and externally, employees are seen as central to the solution.
- There is organisational¬†integrity -¬†the values on the wall are reflected in day to day behaviours. There is no ‚Äėsay ‚Äďdo‚Äô gap
Each of the four enablers is, at its core, a question of communication:¬†The ability of leaders, managers and employees to communicate in a way that involves.¬†
The UK figures they’re losing¬†¬£25.8bn¬†[that would be¬†$40.25 billion!]¬†in GDP annually. ¬†Why? ¬†Employee engagement. Or rather the lack of engaged employees. Now if that doesn’t wake business and government up I don’t know what will.
Employees want to go to work to do a good job. ¬†They want their work to matter. They want to feel involved. ¬†They aren’t. Or they aren’t enough.¬†Shouldn’t encouraging and building the capacity to communicate be a priority? If not, why isn’t it?
I’m cleaning out my files and came across something I think you’ll like. I’d discovered it when Montreal’s Musee des beaux arts hosted a fabulous show on Catherine the Great a few years ago. ¬†There in the midst of ¬†all of the 18th century luxury and over the top opulence of the show was a humble plaque which posted the¬†Code of Behaviour for the Winter Palace. ¬†Here, in translation, is what it instructed:
- All ranks shall be left outside the doors, similarly hats, and particularly swords
- Orders of precedence and haughtiness, and anything of such like which might result from them, shall be left at the doors.
- Be merry, but neither spoil nor break anything, nor indeed gnaw at anything
- Be seated, stand or walk as it best pleases you, regardless of others
- Speak with moderation and not too loudly, so that others present have not an earache or headache
- Argue without anger or passion
- Do not sigh or yawn, neither bore nor fatigue others
- Agree to partake of any innocent entertainment suggested by others
- Eat well of good things, but drink with moderation so that each should be able always to find his legs on leaving these doors
- All disputes must stay behind closed doors; and what goes in one ear should go out the other before departing through the doors
If any shall infringe the above, on the evidence of two witnesses, for any crime each guilty party shall drink a glass of cold water, ladies not excepted, and read a page from the Telemachida out loud. [apparently the Telemachida is a very boring and long winded poem about Ulysses that was contemporary with the rules]
Who infringes three points on one eveining shall be sentenced to learn three lines from the Telemachida by heart.
If any shall infringe the tenth point, he shall no longer be permitted entry.
I think we can learn much from the clarity on both the behaviours and the consequences of breaking the rules. How does your code of conduct compare? ¬†Does it clearly articulate both behaviours and consequences? ¬†
[I can think of at least a couple of corporate off sites and holiday parties that would have benefited from these rules.]¬†
There has been much written, especially since the financial crash of 2008, about how institutions and individual leaders need to be transparent and authentic. ¬†And, there’s been at least as much written by communication professionals and leaders about how difficult this is to achieve.¬†Are we just tilting at windmills? Let’s take a closer look.
The underlying assumptions: ¬†Institutions and leaders can be either
- authentic or not.
- transparent or not.
The first assumption. ¬†Every decision or action is a reflection of who and what they are; their fundamental values.¬†How could an institution or individual be other than what or who they are? ¬†We might not like what we see, but it is always authentic: ¬†good, bad or ugly.
As communication professionals and leaders this can be hard especially where our values are in conflict. The best we can do for ourselves and our organizations: ¬†Face reality. ¬†[see below]
The second assumption. ¬†There are two possible reasons for not being transparent. ¬†It’s:
- a conscious decision designed to hide reality [there are different ways to do this - spin, black out - but these are for another post] or
- unconcious. ¬†Leaders simply don’t know they aren’t being transparent and/or don’t want to know how to be transparent.
In the former, where there is a conscious decision to be opaque, then as a communication professional or leader this will be a question of whether this is in conflict with your values or not. If you find yourself in this situation, you probably need to ask yourself if you can live with the lack of transparency. There is nothing you can do to change this situation.
In the latter,¬†it’s about not knowing what they don’t know. As a communication professional or leader this is where there’s a real opportunity to raise awareness, educate and build approaches to ensure transparency.
Conclusion. This is the transparency and authenticity challenge. We need to face reality sooner than later. The only situation where a communication professional or leader has any chance of changing things is where their organization or leadership may want to be transparent and don’t know how. Then there are two questions we need to ask ourselves:
- How to find out if they really do want to be transparent?
- Do we have what it takes to help them get there?
Otherwise we will certainly continue to find ourselves tilting at windmills: Exhausting ourselves and our organizations.
It’s been a long month for many world and local leaders. ¬†While Obama may have won the US election, it’s been a much harder month for many others. ¬†In fact, it feels like there’s an epidemic of leaders stepping down:
The BBCs Director General, George Entwhistle, left “…over the handling of paedophilia allegations by BBC‚Äôs Newsnight”.
CIA Director, David Petraeus, “a retired four-star general and perhaps the nation’s most revered military figure” resigned his post after an FBI investigation uncovered his extra marital affair with his biographer.
Montreal’s¬†Mayor Gerard Tremblay¬†resigned after allegations, which he continues to deny, coming from the Charbonneau Commission into corruption in the city. This was followed by the President of the Montreal’s executive Michael Applebaum’s resignation “…citing the committee’s refusals to immediately make public a damning report on city contracts and to reduce the 2013 property tax hike.”
And the long-time Mayor of Laval [a community on the island of Montreal], Gilles Vaillancourt,¬†stepped down after an RCMP search of his home and office. He suggested quitting was his only option: “Whatever I say or do… the damage (to my reputation) is done.”
Not all of these resignations were created equal. ¬†Some definitely come across as more noble than others. ¬†It seems like there’s more ‘getting out of dodge’ and not enough ‘the buck stops here”?
As leaders and communication professionals what do you think?¬†What is it about these resignations that is the same and what’s different.¬†Is there even one that make you say: Now that’s leadership? What are the implications for the organizations they are leaving? How would you handle it?
“She doesn’t understand what communication is.” ¬†”He doesn’t get the value we can add”. “She thinks cause she can talk and write she understands communications.” “All he wants is somebody to right the news release.”
The thing is that conversation about the communication professionals role often comes down to… ¬†”If only we had a smarter, better CEO then we could really do our job.”
And, if you work in or for large organizations, you’ve probably heard something similar from people in almost any support function.
The implication is that these CEOs are
- stupid. ¬†They don’t get what we can do.
- irrational. They see what we can do and they choose not to let us do it.
But CEOs may be many things but stupid and irrational aren’t qualities that would have gotten them to where they are. ¬†If they don’t know what communication professionals can to to further their interests for the business or their careers, the things that matter to them, then the problem might just be us.
Last week I read ¬†an article in the Globe and Mail‘s Report on Small Business. ¬†The article is part of a regular weekly series where the paper asks experts to advise small and medium-sized businesses on how to handle a particular business issue.
In this case¬†¬†the CEO of a small agency felt his company had become the training ground for other, bigger¬†agencies. ¬†The company provides compensation and benefits in line with bigger firms. They’ve started funding professional training and development.¬†They offer “perks that would make it fun to work there – from beer flowing on Fridays to staff bonging outings.” And still they’re losing employees. Recently 3 employees were actively headhunted and recruited by one company.
Three experts offered their advice.
- Implement a bonus plan
- Get potential employees to work harder to get the job in the first place by having them do a presentation to all staff so they’ll be less likely to leave. ¬†Reduce the number of employees and pay them more
- Identify and get to high performers faster to demonstrate your commitment. ¬†Titles matter.
Not one of the experts suggested asking employees what they want. . ¬†Maybe beer on Fridays isn’t what they’re after.¬†The truth is the CEO doesn’t know. And, he won’t know unless he asks them.
For exiting employees: ¬†Why are they leaving? ¬†Is it something we have control over or not? ¬†I think the exit interview is one of the most under-utilized communication channels. ¬†And even when it’s used the information gathered doesn’t seem to be fed back into the system in a way that makes any meaningful difference.
For current employees: ¬†What do they like about their work? the agency? their teams? ¬†What would they like to see change?¬†What aretheir expectations for their careers?
For new employees: ¬†How did they make their decision to join the agency? ¬†What attracted them? ¬†What expectations do they have for the work and their careers?
Sometimes there’s really nothing that can be done organizationally. ¬†Turnover can just be a feature of the industry [and may even be welcome]. ¬†And sometimes we can learn a lot and make even small changes that make it easy for employees to stay. ¬†It starts by asking and listening to employees!