Work Is Communication

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Post by: Sigurd Rinde

Work relies on, no, consists of two things: 

  • brains and hands 
  • communication

Brains and hands: The appropriate and best-possible ability must be available, that’s a good start.

But what can brains and hands do unless they know what to do? Unless they have the full context, the full overview so they’re at least given a spitting chance to use their groomed brains? That is what communication is all about.

Communication is about finding the right brain and hands for the task at hand, then disseminate the information accordingly: Precise tasks, all pertinent information, not less and not more, and full context so we understand the whys as well as the whats. Then what is undertaken, context, must be captured in full so there is no doubt as to who did what and what the work was based on, what the results were, and above all that accountability was assigned and accepted – reverse information dissemination. Without all of that the brains and hands are useless.

Yes the two are interdependent, but arguably the latter, communication, would have an even bigger impact on the effectiveness of the organisation than refining the brains and hands another notch. 

That’s the reality.

What does the map look like?

All focus is on brains and hands – large HR departments, extensive vetting processes, constant evaluation, mentoring, training, coaching, all important of course. 

But where’s the Communication Department? IT help desk supporting setting up Outlook? Often that’s it.

We talk about HR strategy, we have HR Directors sitting on boards – all fine and good, but where is the Communication strategy? Ah, yes, then we immediately think “marketing”, how we “communicate” our product “story” to the customer but never how we enable the stakeholders to effectively do their thing in best possible ways. 

In fact, if it weren’t for “organisational culture”, aka “this is how we usually do things” communication would not work at all in most organisations. As communication architecture that’s about as solid as two empty cans with a string between them.

Yes there is something brewing; “social platforms/tools” are trying to address this glaring omission. 

But “social platforms/tools” as widely understood will not be enough: They have no process base so they cannot disseminate information correctly, it will be all or nothing, they are not able to automatically capture context and new information hence not able to produce reports on the fly. Their data architecture is built on old technologies like pen and paper, but worst of all, lacking a process base the crucial element of accountability will not be present: Who was given (or took) what task at what time, and what did he/she know at the time, and how did he/she proceed to what conclusion at what time? And who’s doing what now, and who’s not doing the what they were supposed to do at this very moment?

By the way, in extremis, search can be seen as a sign of communication failure: If there was process in place the process would know exactly what you need, then deliver it with the task.

The “social platforms/tools” efforts are commendable, and the issue addressed is the right one, but the deluge of free information will never do what focused “process” can do for work. 

If you’re thirsty you put your glass under the faucet, you would not stand under the shower glass in hand.

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