Lack of communication is not the problem you think it is.

Invariably Communication is cited as a major problem in organisations.  In our experience communication is not the problem, it’s all the items that necessitate communication.  Our response can be to “wallpaper” over the poor process or ambiguity with inefficient approaches like e-mail or meetings. A more effective approach however, is to go right back to the root cause of the problem. 

The first root cause is poorly designed business processes.

A good process describes a number of inputs and a sequence of actions or steps to achieve outcomes for a customer.​  If the steps in the process are very well thought through, any variation in inputs and timing dependencies are considered, and adequate resourcing is considered, then that process should work flawlessly.  But with one caveat, dependencies within a process on others is an inherent weakness.  Therefore, the first source of communications issues is these inbuilt dependencies.  Eliminate them when designing the process is the best answer or make them incredibly visible until they can be designed out. The best answer is to eliminate them when designing the process, or enhance their visibility until….

The second root cause is ambiguity.

If every input and step is not clearly defined then clarification or judgement is required – this leads to more un-necessary communication

The third root cause is Dependencies.

As Amazon grew, this problem, which manifests itself as poor communications, began to really slow down innovation.  It can manifest itself through authorisations in processes, change authorisations, interdependencies within business processes, or simply the project team is very large.   The “Two Pizza Team” was introduced to tackle this.  These teams are small (10 or less), autonomous (very little coordination required with others) their objectives, and measures are very well defined and monitored, and they take full ownership for their part of the business.

Have a good think about your team.  Are they set up for success?  Really well-thought-through processes and organisational structures are no longer an option. And more communication is not the answer, it’s the symptom.

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