Talk and Grow Rich
How much do your business partners know about your business? How much do your employees? How much do your clients and customers? Poor communication is one of the most common problems for small and growing enterprises. This may appear quite odd considering that the smaller the firm, the better the shorter the lines of communication should be - as there should be fewer persons to deal with. But really in smaller companies there is often a greater habit of squirreling. Rarely do company co-owners sufficiently confide in one another; senior management often ostracizes the rest of the staff, and clients are often largely in the dark over the status of their business with the company. This is often a greater problem technical enterprises, or technical departments - the general belief apparently, being that it is acceptable for technical people to be poor communicators. It is therefore usual for engineers to believe that their duty remain principally to focus on solving problems and getting the job done, anything else being an extra burden.
What has your business been set up to do, and how do you intend to pursue it? Is the rank and file in same focus? Are your clients happy? Are your major stakeholders on the same page of the business plan? The only way to ensure this is to maintain consistent and meaningful communication between management and staff, within project teams and with clients. The Chief Never Speaks To Us: It is rare to find chief executive officers mingling with the minions. It is more common instead to find most of the staff is in the dark regarding what is presently happening in the firm or where the business is heading. This commonly causes anxiety especially in firms undergoing a period of transition - boom or bust; as a result of which staff may become worried about their jobs as more people are employed or retrenched. Much loss of good personnel, loss of good business, has been known to occur as a consequence.
A way to solve this kind of problem could be to share as much information about the how the firm is operating as possible with the entire workforce; on a regular basis. This corporate blogging is a gesture that should assist to keep the staff happily engaged and also to prepare the next generation of managers. And if this is sincerely undertaken, it will be discovered that communication lines will naturally open throughout the company, trust will be built and the workforce will be encouraged to improve performance. What should this corporate blog consist of? It should primarily feature an analysis of the firm's financial performance within the period in review, what is required of the staff to focus on during the next review period, and also the executive officer's thoughts and concerns for both the long and short term. Of course there may need to be several levels of blogging - to senior management, intermediate, junior, and shop floor. This could in fact be necessary because improperly presented or unintelligible information is of course quite useless, and could be interpreted by staff as an attempt to play on their intelligence. One company that might be worth contacting when planning to implement a corporate blog or wiki are the technical writers - Tee Publishing (http://www.tee-publishing.uk).
Apart from this, it is often a good idea to schedule an all-employee meeting regularly to inform everyone about how the company is doing, motivate them about the future, address their concerns and obtain their inputs on how things are progressing. Such meeting could also become a highly effective, low-cost way to improve communication within a growing enterprise. Nobody Ever Tells Me Anything : Another common problem is that senior managers rarely exchange information on what they are doing, and are usually just busy pursuing their own separate agendas. It is rare to find co-owners discussing strategic issues on a regular basis. They don't exchange ideas on what they want for the firm and for themselves, and they generally don't discuss how and in what direction they want the company to grow. As a result of this, very many firms especially the technically orientated enterprises do not have a clear mission or vision for the future. Thereby they endlessly struggle to gain positive momentum. And ergo; a relationship in the rock. Except a firm has only one owner, this sort of problem cannot be eliminated, but can be minimized. Quarterly meetings of the firm's board of directors preferably together with senior management, should be part of the firm's annual schedule.
The objective of such meetings should be to discuss exclusively on strategic issues facing the firm and to monitor the firm's business plan. It is of course assumed as known that any enterprise that is not working from a properly drawn up business plan, which contains well stated mission, vision, strategies, goals, and action items will sooner or later find itself extinct or buried in serious trouble. I am always Under Pressure: Most technical enterprises and departments have found it more efficient and more profitable to keep a lean basic team, outsource many tasks, and to execute on-demand production. As a result of this it is usual to find many technical heads often complaining of not obtaining crucial information about a project on time. Consequently they feel that they are often suddenly required to work long hours in order to beat an insane deadline, which may results in the poor quality of output. It is useless to have technical heads that do not understand nor are able to apply the principles of project management, as well as the versatile software tools that are quite commonly used these days. In fact the key team members in every department should have solid project management skills. Only in this way, would they know how tasks are progressing on a regular basis. For other persons in the project team who are not served by a computer, a printed report should be available on at least a weekly basis. All project managers should learn to prepare a single-page weekly memo which should be forwarded to the entire project team as well as to the client preferably by noon every Monday.
Such a memo should specify what was done on the project during the previous week, what will be done in the present week, and also any issues or concerns of which the client should be aware. This process will force the management to communicate with the project team and the client on a regular basis and to confront issues before they turn into nasty problems. Poor communication can damage client relationships and demoralize the staff. It can bring a firm's momentum to an abrupt halt. The successful company or department chief executive officer is the ones who have along the way taken time to open up the lines of communication within their enterprise.
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