Don’t Dam the Communications Flow

My last post addressed the internal communicator’s role as “air traffic controller” in managing the flow of information in an organization. Here’s another symbolic image – drawn from nature this time – for a particular communications situation. And I invite you to share your ideas on this one.

A common problem in organizations is the assumption when senior managers initiate top-down communication that the message reaches all who need to hear it. The reality is just because a message was sent doesn’t mean it was received, read/heard, and (ultimately) understood.

Scary stuff

I was talking with a senior management team about top-down communication and was astounded when one of the managers told me he doesn’t always share information with company staff unless they ask for it. He admitted it was just his nature, although he said it with a great deal of pride. (I understand this may be a control issue: knowledge is power and all that. But I don’t want to get into it here.)

His admission got me thinking about senior and middle-management’s role in enabling OR hampering the flow of top-down communication. I came away from that meeting thinking of him as a beaver whose job it is to build a dam.

Your turn …

How do you deal with the “beavers” on staff who dam up the information flow so that it only trickles downstream?  I’d love to hear your strategies and suggestions for coping with this.

3 replies on “Don’t Dam the Communications Flow”

Use the Best Buy approach, add a layer of women’s groups over the current structure and let women be women. Best Buy found out that the titles disappear and ideas are exchanged between the silos. It changes the flow from looking up or down to looking in or out.

Interesting idea, Toby … an executive blog on an intranet that would allow for both top-down communication (management posts) and bottom-up input (employee comments). It would certainly enable those staff reporting to “beavers” to have access to the information that everyone else is getting.

Sybil – I’m seeing more companies using blogs as an internal communications strategy. Not only do blogs encourage conversation and sharing of ideas but the blog platform allows for archiving and categorizing (tagging). Another benefit is a few less emails cluttering your inbox.

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