Organizational efficiency ultimately requires alignment: across people, across data, across tools, and across KPIs. And alignment depends on timely, clear, and relevant communication.
Problems show up when we rely on the human alone to enable this communication.
Why? Well, as we know, humans are imperfect. Especially overwhelmed humans, who are juggling multiple responsibilities, projects, meetings, and emails.
But so often organizations devolve into blaming people for the shortcomings in their processes and tools. So often, it becomes a blame game of “that team/person didn’t deliver in time.” As a result, resentment brews, siloes form, and company culture gets eroded.
According to a recent HBR study, poor organizational alignment can cost a small to mid-sized company up to $14M per year. In these tough days with rapidly changing priorities, organizations are facing an even bigger risk than usual when it comes to misalignment and poor communication.
Want to improve how your organization communicates? Here are some tips to start:
1. Automate workflows.
Do you have the right workflows in place at your organization, or do things frequently slip through the cracks? Remember, the more routine a task or work activity is, the more likely it will be missed by employees. You can use a number of tools to enable this depending on your needs – Sharepoint and Trello, to name two. You should also incorporate frequent, automated reminder e-mail notifications to make sure work gets done.
2.Leadership needs to overcommunicate.
To reduce confusion on strategic priorities, leadership needs to take time out to communicate the vision and strategy to the entire organization transparently, and in a consistent manner. Tools like Workboard can help tie company objectives to project objectives, visually using interactive dashboards and KPI visualization.
Also, strongly consider hiring an Executive Communications Lead to manage these communications and keep employees engaged in the “big picture” view. Too often, project teams and front line employees have little visibility into the company’s long term plan and become consumed with the day-to-day. It is essential that employees at all levels understand the strategic value of their work, so they concentrate efforts on highest-value activities.
3. Document as much as possible.
Don’t assume that anything is “tribal knowledge” and doesn’t need to be explicitly documented. Roles, responsibilities, and work processes need clear documentation and labeling, especially as new talent is onboarded.
4. Make documents and data accessible on the cloud.
Whatever cloud service you use, be strategic and exhaustive when setting document and data permissions. At the same time, ensure that important information is accessible to employees when they need it. Reduce the amount of time employees spend asking around “where can I get x document?” Rather, engage the entire workforce around proper version control, reducing hard drive document storage, and centralizing and organizing information as actively as possible. This often means continuously cleaning out old, outdated versions and properly labeling “FINAL” versions.
5. Take advantage of self-service tools.
Invest in comprehensive FAQs, trainings, and change management for self-service tools. Dependencies and waiting for information slows things down. As much as possible, take advantage of self-service capabilities to help employees answer their own questions. This is especially useful with frequently asked questions, such as those that may be posed to HR. The idea is to free up time normally spent on the mundane to devote to more strategic, high value activities.
Depending on humans alone to carry out the various tasks that the new, complex workplace demands is unreasonable and inefficient.
So before you proceed to “have a talk” with a person or team that seems to be underperforming, remember to take a magnifying glass to your processes. People alone are very rarely the sole cause of organizational inefficiencies. Sure, some people are inherently more difficult to work with than others . They can be lazy, difficult, or just plain inefficient!
But the majority of employees are actually just doing the best that they can within their means.
Thus, take a good, hard look at your organizational collaboration processes and bottlenecks, get feedback from teams, and put in place tools with optimized processes. While change management will be an investment in the short term as the organization adjusts to the “new ways of doing things,” you will reap big returns in the long term.