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.
OK.. He didn’t die, but he could have.
The city of Montreal [at least 1M of us] was on a boiling water alert this week. Water was murky. No one seemed to know if it was just a problem of sediment or whether it was bacterial.
I was on my way to a meeting in the east end of the city when I saw a brief headline on the Montreal Gazette on my phone. I ordered a coffee and asked if they were outside of the boiled water area. They said yes.Â I drank my coffee feeling I was safe. A couple of hours later I learned that the coffee shop was not outside of the boiled water area.
On Friday morning we learned it was a sediment problem not a bacterial problem. Happy? Yes. Â But it could easily have been something much worse. ImagineÂ WalkertonÂ with 1M people!
The more I’ve thought about it, the more angry I get. The information we got seemed lackadaisicalÂ at best. And, Â restaurants, hotels, and other public places didn’t know or didn’t seem to have emergency protocols. Â Robocalls [fake calls to people during our last federal election that got people to go to the wrong polls] did lots better at targeting people.
In an interview of Richard Branson, who was in town for C2Mtl, he was asked to respond to a series of one word cards. One word was “drink”… He said among other things: Â ”I made a mistake of drinking the Montreal tap water last night, quite a lot of it…”
Different scenario and he would have been dead. Oh and so would I and about 1M others.
Communication. Timely, direct, clear and accurate communication. Reaching the people and organizations that need to know. Having emergency protocols that we all know and understand. Â Kinda basic.
Montreal? What have you learned from this?
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 doesnâ€™t 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?Â And how they will be impacted.
Seems so obvious, and yet itâ€™s not.Â 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.
Itâ€™s 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.
Have you ever asked yourself what a great communicator looks like in your organization?
Are there any? Â If so,
- Why are they great?
- What characteristics do they have?
- What impact do they have?
- What can you learn from them? Â What can the rest of the organization learn from them?
If not, why not? And what can you do about it.
Great communicators may just happen, but the ones I know are very disciplined about their communication. Â It’s not something they pull out at the last minute – “Oh now I guess I better speak to my folks!” It’s something that is absolutely build into everything they do and how they do it.
What is your organization doing to build communication mastery? I’d love to talk.
Communication is almost always the institutional fall guy when things don’t go well.
Over the holidays I found myself helping an elderly friend manoeuvre through our medical system. It’s been quite a journey and seems to be ending well for my friend. Â She’s home and slowly getting better.
And it seemed like the biggest challenge over the past couple of weeks has been communication. But has it?
In Quebec, we have clinics – lesÂ centres local de services communautaires orÂ CLSCs – where as a citizen of Quebec you can get free access to doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists, physio and occupational therapists, etc. A fabulous idea. They were initially designed to take pressure off of the emergency rooms in our hospitals. Â Today they are also replacing general practices – in Quebec we don’t have enough family doctors, so if you need one this is where you go. Â And, they’ve become the frontline coordination hub for services that enable patients to remain in their homes rather than in institutions. That’s all a very good thing.Â Unfortunately it doesn’t work nearly as well as it might. Ask anyone in the system and they’ll tell you the problem is communication.
Within the CLSC we went to things actually worked well. Â We spoke to an intake nurse right away. We were assigned a long-term nurse within 24 hours. The first full evaluation of my friend at her home happened very quickly. My friend can can have access to a social worker and other resources that will advise her about what she needs to do to stay safely in her own home and connect her to other resources if she wants them – meals on wheels, hairdressing, etc. It isn’t perfect, but it is pretty darn good especially given we were dealing with them over the holidays.
What didn’t and doesn’t work all happened once we had to deal with other professionals outside the hub. The CLSC is neither well connected to the hospital – where my friend ended up in emergency for 3 nights – or to the patient’s doctors – in this case a general practitioner, a cardiologist and a vascular specialist. And the hospital wasn’t connected to the pharmacy – which is the only other hub where critical and integrated information on the patient’s care is held. In fact, the hospital sent my friend home on New Year’s Eve without a single and very critical dose of antibiotic to tide her over until the pharmacy was doing deliveries after the holidays. These disconnects are big problems. The long-term care nurse has [or should have] the complete picture of what’s going on with the patient on all fronts and what that looks like from the patient’s point of view given their context. In this case it was impossible and felt like a telephone game we played as kids but with much more dire consequences if things went wrong.
There are disconnects and overlaps in communication at almost every point in our journey.They are costing the system significant dollars and, I can only assume, the lives of patients.But, look a little deeper and there’s a more fundamental problem.Â The protocols are there. They just don’t work. They were designed for a different system: A siloed hierarchical doctor-centric system. And, it was often badly executed. Except for the patient’s health there seem few consequences.
How many of the communication problems in your organization are the result of management system design and execution problems and not just communication. Let’s stop being the fall guy and push to be part of a fundamental rethink and redesign of Â management and operational systems that no longer work.
Focusing seems to be the theme of the week.
First I read about how Canadian Tire managed to grow profits while focusing on reducing energy consumption.
Then, I heard Dr. Hartley Stern, Executive Director, Jewish General Hospital speak at the Canadian Club yesterday about how we as Quebecers should be focused not just on access to medical care, but also on cost and quality. He went on to talk about how his hospital is tracking and publishing results and lessons learned on their website as a key part of thier strategy to improve care, reduce cost and improve quality. This is a radical new approach to health care in Quebec.
And, today, I read “Does Management Really Work?“. The answer: Yes. Where they have the right focus.
But, focusing on the right things is not enough.
Consistent and reliable communication is essential in each of these stories. Communication that makes the invisible visible. The un-understandable understandable. The meaningless meaningful.
How are you and your organization doing on focusing on the right things and then communicating in the right way?
A little focus – hocus pokus…
It’s coming up on that time of year again. Year end results. Launching new strategies and plans – for brands, for products, for businesses. The big employee event. And, maybe an employee campaign.
A recent article in the Globe and Mail, “A question of engagement: do you employees want to come to work?” got me thinking about this. According to the report, 67% of Canadian employees aren’t engaged. They would rather be somewhere else, doing something else than coming to work. The article goes on to make two important points:
- An engaged workforce isn’t necessarily a happy workforce. [think about nurses - super engaged, but given their working conditions not so happy]
- An engaged workforce isn’t necessarily a productive workforce. [it may be a contributing factor, but just one of many]
- in knowing what they’re expected to do and how that work contributes to the overall ‘customer’ experience
- in having what they need – information, tools, workspaces – to make it easy for them to do their jobs well
- by developing leaders that know how to listen and to respond as well as to tell and motivate.
Here in Canada, the first day after Labour Day begins a new school year for many children. Â And one of the important lessons our kids learn before they head off to school is to “Stop. Look. Listen” before crossing the street.
And, maybe it’s a lesson we as leaders and communicators can learn from tooÂ as we get back to work after the summer and start in on this new business season full of the pressures of strategic planning and budgeting, achieving last quarter and annual results, annual performance reviews and objective setting for next year.
For all the talk in Canadian business about innovation and collaboration, I just read a startling and rather disappointing fact from a talk given by BDC late in 2011: Â Canadian “businesses invest $2,400 less per employee, per year, in computers, software and training than American companies do.”
A few years ago that amount spent on information and communication technology wouldn’t have bought you much. Today it could set an employee up with enough technology and applications to be able to connect the way they want, when they want, with colleagues virtually anywhere in the world. It could create the opportunity for innovation and collaboration that we believe is so vital.
The United States have been hit harder by the recession than we in Canada have and yet they invest $2,400 more in the stuff that will make it easier for their employees to create new and more efficient ways of doing things;Â new products and services that better meet the needs of their customers; and a competitive advantage. Â This doesn’t seem right.
When we as leaders are out talking about the importance of innovation and collaboration to the future of our organizations and our country are we making it a priority? Â The numbers say we aren’t.
If innovation and collaboration are key strategic priorities, then we need to invest in them. If they aren’t, then we probably shouldn’t keep saying that they are. Â
The single most challenging thing facing my clients is staying in touch with reality.
And, the pace of change just makes it harder.
It’s easier to assume we know what we don’t, or can’t, know. After all we have to get onto the next pressing issue.
In a way, it may be asÂ Marshall McLuhan described it:Â â€śIn our time we are reliving at high speed the whole of the human past.Â As in a speeded-up film, we are traversing all ages, all experience, including the experience of prehistoric man.â€ť And, he added: “You can turn it off.”
And, maybe that’s what we’re doing. Â Maybe, in order to survive we’re just turning it off.
What’s great about McLuhan, though, is that if you didn’t like that ideaÂ he has another one: Â â€śWith the acceleration of change, management now takes on entirely new functions.Â While navigating admidst the unknown is becoming the normal role of the executive, the new need is not merely to navigate but to anticipate effects with their causes.â€ť
But in turning it off we’re missing that thisÂ time of change is also a time of incredible opportunity. Those who’ll succeed and thrive, it won’t be because of random luck. Â It won’t be because they’re comfortable with, and embrace, ambiguity. It will be because they’veÂ stayed in touch with theÂ realityÂ of what is changing and what is staying the same and what the implications of those changes are in relationship to their values and highest aspirations.
In your organization, do your leaders know what they don’t know?
You get there just in time, find the room, andÂ grab an empty seat. The event begins and you sit patiently listening to the other speakers and making small talk with the people at your table. Finally, after an hour and half of waiting, it’s your turn. You look around the room as you’re being introduced.Â The applause begins. You take your time getting to your feet, shake hands with the people at your table, and make your way in slow measured steps to the lectern. Taking out your notes, you straighten your jacket, clear your throat, andÂ looking back at the screen where your PowerPoint slides are flashing you begin: “I hopeÂ everybody can hear me. These don’t look like the right slides.”
What do you think is the single greatest mistake made by this presenter?Â There are a great many, but one might you might have missed is: “you sit patiently listening to theÂ other speakers and … .”
Recently I had a conversation with my friend Mitch Joel,Â the marketing guru who wrote the book Six Pixels of Separation, andÂ writes the newspaper column andÂ blogÂ by the same name.Â Â Mitch is president of the Montreal-based marketing agency Twist Image and makes a lot of high-profile keynote presentations. Anything he says about presentation I listen to.Â You might want to as well. What does he do before the presentation begins? He said that in the time immediately before he goes onÂ he focuses entirely on what he is going to say, his message, and getting his energy up. Pacing up and down. Rehearsing before a mirroir. Whatever it takes.Â You might not give many keynote presentations, so you might not think you have to go to all this effort.Â Â After all it takes alot of dedication, concentration, and discipline, to be a professional speaker, but then again you might want to give it a try.Â It just might be what you need to do: