Since being pointed in his direction a few weeks back, Johnnie Moore's blog has quickly become required reading for me. Today he skewers the idea that many companies have a communication problem, quoting Chris Corrigan:
When I am working with organizations who complain that they have communication problems, I always ask about gossip. I ask how long it takes for a juicy rumour to propagate through the organization. People usually respond with some lightning fast time.
I always point out that this means that there is no communication problem, the problem is that people are just not passionate enough about issues that are "communication problems." This always leads into nice discussions about working with more passion, rather than devising some useless set of easily broken communication commitments.
This 'passion' thing is difficult to get right. I think, though, that values and stories are two good places to start. Employees who feel their values align with that of their colleagues and the company feel more passion about what they do and consequently tell people about it. If they have stories to tell, people listen. How do you identify and cultivate these values? You get people to tell stories - stories about what matters to them, and what concerns them. It's circular, but effective.
People want to share experiences with others, we all want to feel that we 'connect' with others through shared activities, values and stories. When people don't communicate and participate that is not just the way it always has been (though in some companies it may seem like that), something has gone wrong. Only by reconnecting with the values that give people passion can this be overcome - and we all wish to do it. Moore gets to the nub of the matter simply stating that:
[The] desire for participation is natural, it's in our bones.