K Street Newsletter :: Directions

July 2017    |    VOLUME 15, ISSUE 7

The SIlo Mentality 

It's no fun working in an organization that has a silo mentality, unless you happen to be the top dog in your own particular silo. There could be some satisfaction in having total control of a particular function or department, not answerable to anyone but your own boss. However, people inside the silo always understand that other things are going on outside, and most would prefer to connect with their peers in other parts of the organization. Our work in Knowledge Management has proven this many times. People want to share what they know. It's human nature.

There's also evidence that silo-oriented companies will suffer a competitive disadvantage in the age of the empowered consumer. According to this article, everything a company does should be focused on enriching the customer experience. Information has to be accessible at the click of a button, and every department needs a holistic view of the end customer at any point where they might interact. Some companies have appointed Customer Experience Officer (CXOs) so the issue has board-level attention across the entire enterprise. It's all about making sure employees have accurate, timely and relevant information about any individual customer. If your customers don't believe you care about them, they will go elsewhere.
 

Back to the Office

IBM was one of the pioneers of telecommuting in the 1990s, recognizing that with the right technology, people could work effectively from anywhere. Or at least it seemed that way. People wrote about the office without walls, and practically every work team today is virtual, at least to some degree. However, there have some notable reversals. After Marissa Mayer took the top job at Yahoo, she abolished its work-from-home policy and ordered everyone back to the office. Her idea was that face-to-face interaction leads to a more collaborative culture. It worked at Google. Bank of America also ordered some employees back to the office in 2012, although that was presented as part of a larger cost-cutting program. Some of those who opted to work from home also maintained offices at the bank.

IBM itself may be following suit. Remote work programs tend to be popular, and contribute to employee satisfaction and higher productivity. But IBM has informed thousands of workers that need to give up the work-from home life and return to regional offices. Officially, IBM contends that having everyone in the same room will lead to greater innovation. However, some observers believe the real intent is to cut the size of its workforce. In the early days of Knowledge Management, the positive effect of proximity was taken as a given. Random collisions with other workers deepened relationships and improved communication. Technology has managed to do many things, but it still hasn't come up with a virtual coffee pot.

 

 

Street Smarts 166: Get your story straight.

Corporate communications departments could spend less time on damage control if communications were given more consideration at the time decisions are made. A lot of PR damage is self-inflicted, because companies take action without thinking about the blow-back impacts. It's a lot better (and easier) to have the right story in place up front, so there's no need to spin it after the fact.

This article notes a decision by Sainsbury's, the second largest British supermarket chain, to file a lawsuit against a small grocery called Singhbury’s, claiming its name was too similar. When the press reported on the litigation, it painted Sainsbury's as a heavy-handed bully. And when Singhbury's changed its name to Morrisingh's (a clear reference to Morrison's, a Sainsbury competitor), it was suddenly a social media star. And Morrison's grabbed the opportunity for some positive press of its own, by praising its sound-alike's good taste. Certainly, brand and reputation matter. And your brand is worth protecting. But some actions may do more harm than good.
 

 

Building Business Relationships 

Everyone understands that relationships are the key to a successful business, which is why individual managers invest so much time in the fine art of networking. Everyone wants a vital, engaging and productive network of personal contacts, within their own company, outside the company and even in different industries. Having a good network gives you a platform for exchanging ideas, learning new things, and finding opportunities for cross-pollination. For example, we've written before about how an idea from commercial aviation - the pre-flight checklist - had a dramatic effect on patient outcomes when it was adapted for use in surgical suites.

This article suggests four ways to use some basic principles of knowledge sharing as network-building tools. The key is to be willing to give as much (or more) than you get. That means expressing genuine interest in what other people do, and being willing to listen carefully and give good advice. People will be much more likely to help with your initiatives if they believe you're willing to do the same. Creating a network of smart, ambitious people is one of the smartest things you can do for your career.

 

Data is Key

A recent study by Gill Research surveyed communications professionals from around the world, trying to identify common challenges when it came to internal communications. Most companies already invest in intensive data gathering to assess the effectiveness of their external communications, but tend not to be as rigorous when it comes to how things are seen on the inside. In fact, the survey found that 60% of the respondents felt measurement was a growing priority for internal communication, and 83% felt it was the key to making better decisions.

Three things are getting in the way of expanding internal communications measurements. Lack of resources was the biggest challenge, in terms of time, people and money. Roughly 63% cited the lack of time and people, with another 34% mentioning a lack of funding. But another factor was the lack of good tools for internal communications measurement. Most are unsure what to measure and 59% were unsatisfied with how measurement was being done. Half admitted that the weren't doing anything to measure email, which was considered the most valuable channel. HR managers and communications departments do understand that data is the key to better communications, just as it is in other aspects of their business. It's what will let companies build trust, develop better messaging and raise employee engagement. But it will take time.

 

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