Reaching right levels of the organisation can be a difficult task even for the employees. Many external initiatives never reach levels of organisational hierarchy able to make decision or take action. This hack defines practical solution and outlines the most important characteristics of the system able to resolve the issue.
Communication within an organisation is acknowledged as difficult to establish, maintain and use for the benefit of the company. Establish, because the hierarchy of the organisation is usually complex and finding the right person to talk to can be difficult or impossible. Maintain, because people willing to communicate finally give up if they find response difficult to get; and use for the benefit of the organisation because communication, if not channelled and moderated, can be time consuming.
Even bigger issue related to organisational communication is communication between external parties and appropriate internal departments. Let’s take in consideration the following situation: You have, or represent a product which, if implemented by the organisation targeted, would save millions of dollars, employ dozens of people and ensure organisation’s competitive advantage. Unfortunately, you are external to the target organisation and communicating that vision to the department or a person who is able to recognize the opportunity and to make a decision is very difficult for you. Been there, done that. I spent 13 months unsuccessfully trying to reach upper management of the major organisation in my country. After 13 months, I succeeded by approaching one of the top country’s politicians who has got me connected.
Tragic. For the company targeted of course. They lost a year of profit from this initiative. During the 13 months of trying I reached various departments, where I found people either not motivated to engage in any initiative or people who had no power to do much about it. It was interesting that the most of the employees I communicated my idea to had not enough power to communicate that idea to their company’s upper management. On the same journey, I was finding people who were showing motivation to sabotage my mission. Yes, people within the target organisation who invested tremendous amount of energy in making sure I don’t reach another level. After talking to some of their colleagues, I realised that the reason for that were small ‘product samples’ these people were being given by representatives of the companies whose products are to become redundant if my product is employed. Strangely, product samples were sometimes only indirectly related to the industry and manufactured by someone else, like everyone’s favourite present, IPhone.
It is strange how much information I could get from some honest people I was finding there. Of course, I was asked for confidentiality about all information I was given. Sometimes, I was of impression that people give me information because they wanted to spread the word, so that the behaviour is stopped, sometimes because they were jealous. Regardless, they were all ready to be whistleblowers, but anonymous ones. Needless to say, communication channel allowing that was not available.
Above sections are to show that lack of communication channels can result in many issues, from organisation losing business opportunities to organisation becoming a fertile ground for malicious activities, like small level corruption.
To conclude the problem section, I emphasize the issues noticed:
- No internal to internal communication channels ensuring anonymous and non-anonymous communication reaches the right levels of the organisation
- No external to internal communication channels allowing for external information to reach the right levels of the organisation
I feel like reinventing the wheel now, but I have to say that communication channels have to be open and easy to access. This is not easy to implement, of course. There are many issues surrounding this activity. The following are the characteristics of the communication system which would allow for free flow of information within the organisation and from external sources:
- Web based – part of corporate intranet.
- Communication officer assigned - in charge of daily processing of submitted information. To be trained to channel and process the information to the prescribed standards.
- Confidentiality of submitted material guarantied; if anonymity required, submitter’s identity is to be kept secret.
- Communication officer to have power to request people he considers are related or relevant to the submitted material to issue comments or statements.
- When requested by the communication officer, employees have to make official response. Even top management.
- Communication officer’s requests are to be given priority by all levels of the organisation.
- If submitter is not satisfied with the response:
- Communication officer is required to ask different person then originally involved in reviewing submitter’s request.
- If submitter is still not satisfied with the response, after second review, communication officer is to decide whether the case is to be assessed further or just closed.
- Submitters abusing the system are to be made liable for paying all, or portion of time wasted on processing their request. Standard defining system abuse is to be made available to all submitters.
- In a case where technical or other type of expertise is required, but not available, third party is to be involved. This is also to be the case when unbiased party able to provide expertise is not available within the company.
- Reward system is to be developed by the organisation rewarding all or some of the submitters.
- Communication officer is required to submit all submissions received through other means, like email or direct communication.
- All types of communication are to be defined as allowed, including, but not limited to: Ideas, problems, complains, suggestions, notices.
First question is, what about the external to internal communication? Well, I believe that anyone from external environment can reach some level of the organisation and there will always be at least one person willing to accept and communicate information received by the external person further. The reason can be a willingness to participate or just a desire for a reward promised. The last resource for external person to make submission would be to email communication officer who would post submission into the system as required by the policy.
- Free flow of information,
- Fair options for assessment of information,
- Internal and external initiatives delivered to the right levels of the organisation’s hierarchy,
- Anonymous submissions make easy for whistleblowers to alert on issues within the organisation,
- Presence of professional communication officer prevents information overload and spamming
- Required policy to be defined