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.

Creating extreme competitive advantage

Meeting people who really get communication is rare.  So, I was pleasantly surprised to meet with Bob Weiler, founding partner of Brimstone Consulting Group last week.

It was a meeting that proved to be both interesting and provocative.  Early in the conversation Bob suggested I change my business card to read Hinton : Communication strategies for extreme competitive advantage.  Boy did he have my attention?

He pushed on.  Reminding me of what, as an air force brat, I once knew, which is that the first thing you do when you go to war is take out or try to take out your enemy’s communications.  Once you’ve got your enemy in the “dark” and unable to communicate with HQ or each other they start to think very dark thoughts.  They will imagine the worst things possible about what’s going on.  And this gives you a very critical strategic advantage.   So the very first thing you go after is communications.

I felt like a light bulb went back on.  Somewhere 100 conversations ago and in the constant fight for limited resources and budget my clients and I’d lost touch with reality.  The reality that communications is not nice to have.  It’s critical to have.  And, great companies aren’t just OK at it.  They are great at it.  Individual, team and organizational mastery of communications is a top business priority.  And, for the super great it is used as a weapon.

Bob suggested I go back to Kotter’s 8 steps of change model [it’s a classic].  As a reminder they are:  1. Create urgency, 2. Form a Powerful Coalition, 3. Create a Vision for Change, 4. Communicate the Vision, 5. Remove Obstacles, 6. Create Short-term Wins, 7. Build on the Change, 8. Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture.  Every one of these steps requires not just good communication, but great communication at the individual, the team and the organizational level.

And since Kotter’s change model isn’t the only way think about change I pulled out some notes I had on a newer favourorite of mine – Viral ChangeTM .  As Dr Leandro Herrero describes it, this approach takes  “a small set of behaviours spread by a small number of people through their networks of influence to create massive behavioural tipping points, translated into new routines and ‘cultures’ (new ideas established, new ways of working, new process adoption, new culture).”  What will it take?  Great communications.

So, I went back and pulled out some other classics:

Remember the 5 elements of management from business school?  What managers need to do to get things done through their people:   Planning, organizing, staffing, leading, and controlling. What will it take?  Great communication.

Or the 5 P’s of marketing, those things that marketing managers use to control marketing mix:  product, people, place, promotion, price.  What will they take? Great communication.

Or Jim Collins description of how to move an organization from “From Good to Great”.  Remember:  Develop level 5 leadership, decide first who and then what, confront the basic facts, use the hedge hog concept [know what you’re deeply passionate about, what drives your economic engine, what you can be the best in the world at], build a culture of discipline, be a technology accelerator, use the flywheel effect.  What will each of these need?  Great communication.

Or what makes for really engaged employees [this still rankles with me, but since it’s so loved by so many] – job clarity, materials and equipment, matching strengths to the job, recognition and praise, caring about the people you work with, mentoring, valuing employee opinions, connecting to a noble cause, one for all and all for one, creating the conditions so that people can have a best friend at work, regular conversations about individual progress, creating opportunities to learn and grow [based on Gallup G12 questions].  What will that take?  Yep.  Great communication.

So, why is it that so few organizations make mastery of individual, team and organizational communications an essential business priority?  Seems like a no brainer.  What do you think?

And thanks Bob for reigniting the flame.

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