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This month's topic: The Last Prescription for the Vital Organization: Communicate

October 2005      
Topics of Trust and Leadership, from the authors of The Trusted Leader


The Trusted Leader

Previous Issues:

Be Clear About Conflict Resolution

Understand How Business is Done

Know What Makes the Business Tick


Next month's issue: Be The Person Your Dog Thinks You Are


The authors of The Trusted LeaderIn this article we wrap up our discussion of the building blocks for vital organizations.

As always, your feedback and comments on this newsletter are welcome at info@trustedleader.com.

-Rob and Anne-

The Last Prescription for the Vital Organization: Communicate!

How is information (of all kinds) generated and disseminated throughout your organization? Who decides if there should be a meeting tomorrow? How is the word spread to the relevant people? How do they decide who those relevant people are? Where would someone go if they wanted to find out, say, how much revenue a given client generates in one year? If you’re a manufacturer, how would your head of marketing find out how much product was sold through one delivery channel versus another? Would that person run into a “roadblock” in the form of an employee who wasn’t sure that the information could be shared? Would they know whom to ask for clearance?

“When it comes to vitality, the point is not whether the company continually hits home-runs in the market. The point is that it’s willing to step up to the plate.”

Consider this example of how any fuzziness around these processes can cause problems, even with the best of intentions. At one small company, the organization was relatively “flat” – at least that was the line from top management. The vice presidents were constantly told, in formal and informal settings, that their views were important – and sought after – even on the most critical decisions regarding market strategy. And yet, with unfailing regularity, the President called the Senior Vice Presidents into his office for a consult behind closed doors. Some of the Senior Vice Presidents told their troops what went on in those meetings, while others were quite silent on the topic. One senior manager, in fact, told his troops that “the line really had to be drawn somewhere,” and “you just can’t expect to be included in everything as if you were at the uppermost level of the company.”

Here’s just one way to strengthen this building block of vitality in your organization. Try tapping a rotating list of senior managers to staff a designated “Ask the Senior Managers” email box. The idea is that anyone in the company can email a question in to the senior managers and receive a personal reply within 24 hours. Questions that are particularly interesting are posted monthly (anonymously, along with the answers) on bulletin boards in each department. Another technique? Have employees submit questions (anonymously, if they so choose) in writing in advance of a monthly or bi-monthly all-staff meeting. Devote 10 to 15 minutes at each meeting to answering those questions.

This wraps up our series of articles on vital organizations. We started with Is Your Organization Vital?, then covered the building blocks of a vital organization:

We see signs of vitality on a daily basis, in organizations that are outperforming expectations, and also in organizations that are not doing well at all. More kudos to those companies that are having rough times, and still sustaining an invigorating environment.

What does that vitality look like from the outside? It looks as though the company is engaged in animated conversation with its customers, and with the marketplace at large. It looks as though the company is willing to turn in new directions, get its feet wet in new products and new markets, stay attuned to the external environment.

Take Heinz, for example, introducing a line of organic ketchup. The buzz, for a long time, was that large, mainstream corporations would never get into the “niche” organic market – but Heinz took the plunge. “We hear you; we’ll try it,” was the message.

The point is not whether the company continually hits home-runs in the market. The point is that it’s willing to step up to the plate. The vital organization tests the water, sends questions out to the marketplace, and stands ready to react when it gets answers.

If you have something to say about organizational vitality let us know.

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