Improve your communication system

You already have a communication system!

The communication system is one of the most important tools of leadership. Most mangers have got a number of channels that they use on a regular basis e.g. weekly meetings, Friday email, telephone conferences, newsletters, billboards, employee interviews etc. By organize the system properly you will improve the efficiency of your communication.

The system consists of:

  • the people you communicate with
  • the communication channels
  • the message

Improving your system

In order to improve your system you need to understand and fully control the three components of the system. Lets go through them one by one.

1. The people you communicate with – your target groups

A good way to analyse your target group is by making a map of them. Who is in your map? The easiest way to do this is simply by draw a figure on a piece of paper like illustrated below. In this example we have chosen to divide the target groups in two categories; internal and external. You can chose any categories you want of course. The circles indicate the level of importance (to you). The inner circle (A) is the most important.

Map out your target groups

Example of internal target groups

  • Employees (be specific)
  • Coordinators
  • Administrators
  • Managers
  • Management
  • Union
  • Specialists
  • Projects or groups
  • Different departments
  • Geographic areas

Example of external target groups

  • Customers
  • Networks
  • Suppliers
  • Partners
  • Users
  • Patients
  • Organisations
  • Mass media
  • Neighbours
  • Community
  • Governmental authorities

The next step would be to look at the target groups in your map and evaluate them. Take markers (if you have) in green, yellow and red and mark all the target groups in your map according to:

    green = ok relation

    yellow = works sometime, can be improved

    red = no good relation

2. The communication channels

Now it's time to write all your target groups in a document. Make separate documents for internal and external groups. This time we are going to add the channels and improvement areas. Make a separate column for channels and write down the 2-3 best channels to reach respective target group. Add a column for improvement areas. Where you have marked red or yellow you should write down the problem and action to solve. The list can look something like this:

Examples of channels in the communication system

    Personal channels
  • Departmental meetings
  • Debriefing meetings (summing-up)
  • “Morning prayers” (short meetings at the beginning of the working day)
  • Dialogue meetings
  • Project meetings
  • “Ten-minutes” (absolutely undisturbed meetings, manager/employee, for example, once every second week)
  • General meetings
  • Union meetings
  • Information meetings
  • Decision meetings
  • Brainstorming meetings
  • Up close and personal (informal meetings with a senior manager and a group of employees)

    Mechanical channels
  • Intranet
  • Employee magazines
  • Newsletters
  • E-mails
  • Billboards
  • Homepage on internet
  • External media

3. The messages

The third part of the communication system is the message. There are many ways to divide messages. You can think of it as one-way and two-way messages. The different is that the one-way messages are the kind of messages where there is no need for discussions or dialogue and with the two-way messages there is. You can also see it as a scale of importance for the target group. The more important the message is for the target group the more personal the channel needs to be. E.g. you should not send out an e-mail informing of a re-organization (this happens all to often) but rather organize meetings.

Certain messages are difficult to talk about, such as feedback, vision, values and strategic issues whilst others are easy to talk about, such as project updates, financial issues, practical operative issues etc. This is why many managers use meetings to discuss simple messages (one-way) instead of important stuff that builds commitment and ownership.

The absolutely most effective change in your system is to look at the messages you have in your department meetings and remove all one-way message to leave room for more discussions about the important stuff. Introduce a weekly e-mail (if you don’t already have that) where you summarize all the one-way messages. This will help make your meetings more interesting and to build a better climate and commitment.

Now go and improve your system

Leave The communication system and go back to home