Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Communication Paradox

Walking through the woods today, I created this hypothesis, that I call the Communication Paradox.

In one organization, we communicated across the organization about a variety of issues in the company: the profits, the results for the organization's objectives and annual goals, new customers, old customers and their issues, level of business that is coming, business development plans, etc. Management was often walking around through the departments, available for questions and to see what concerns were present.

When asked what the results were for last week, nearly everyone was ignorant; no one had looked at the information board.

It wasn't that no one cared. They just didn't bother to look.

Hardly anyone had a suggestion for different information that they'd like to see.

I think if we weren't communicating enough, then we'd see morale-related problems. They would be clamoring for more information, starting rumors to fill the void, and causing problems to get a response from management. When there's a perceived lack of information, management seems hidden. The troops have no idea what's going on. Communication becomes the Number One problem in the company.

As soon as information is shared and questions are answered openly and honestly, the need for information goes away. It seems that as soon as transparency starts, the rank-and-file begin to trust that nothing is hidden--no separate accounting, no "other shoe" to drop, no "bad news" to follow the good news, etc. They don't need all of the information. They know they can get anything they want, by asking, because management has been trustworthy enough to share a lot already.

The Communication Paradox: as soon as you start sharing information, the need for it goes away.

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