Interest in organizational communication starts right from our MBA days. The challenge begins when we have to communicate our policies and directions to organizational members at different levels. In earlier times of stable business environments we associated communication in corporate training and practiced rather passively. The environment in which organizations now operate has changed to one that is dynamic and fast changing. With fierce competitive pressures externally and internally an impatient and educated work force with rising expectations the communication needs are now specific and focused sharply. Therefore communication has evolved to corporate communication and internal communication inwards respectively. We will discuss a few aspects of Internal Communication in the context of leadership and strategy this post.
Internal Communication (IC)
As we move up the organizational hierarchy the degree of contact with the organizational members at lower levels gradually reduces. And it is at the top management levels that strategic decisions are taken. Leaders find it more and more difficult to effectively communicate strategies meaningfully to different constituencies of the organization.
Leaders will need to focus more and more on empowerment and speed-up a bottom-up flow of ideas and opinions. This by no means is an easy to handle by a few. They need close support. It is here that internal communication steps–in to play a two way role and become the voice of the leadership – top down and the voice of the employees – bottom up. IC needs may be transactional or strategic. The former is best driven by technology and is information based whereas the latter is based on knowledge, skills and articulation of complex issues.
With the democratization of communication by way of Internet, Intranets, SMS, social networks – Facebook, Blogs &Twitter, VCs & podcast. Internal communication will need to be fast and focused on issues which are significant and something that people would be keen to know about.
More so as the new generation employees who are born in the information age and who would feel ignored if they were to discover important development about the organization through informal sources.
Here it becomes imperative that the members of the IC team will need special qualities and high credibility. Honesty and timeliness are key strategic issues. Not only must they be well versed with the complexity of the strategic issues but also have an open mind to listen and learn from employees regardless of age and gender. Even when things go bad, everyone should know what is going on and where the company stands.
M&A and Strategic Alliances: The integration of people of both the entities is critical to achieving the strategic purpose of the deal. Delays and lack in communication are the main causes of failure. Employee feel insecure of their future, they resist changes as the positives are not clear to them. IC in conjunction with HR has to play a proactive role to prevent talent from fleeing.
Downsizing with dignity: Here too i.e., before, during and after the downsizing it is important to communicate with empathy and sensitivity to maintain a state of high morale.
To meet the challenges of above initiatives effectively IC team will also need to look beyond traditional management communication systems to get a pulse of their organizations. It is here that the ‘grapevine’ can play a positive role if handled subtly.
Employee commitment and engagement: Top management along with the IC team can communicate their business plans to different departments so that their views are given due consideration. Challenge now is to project an appropriate perception of the company business philosophy and vision in the minds of different constituents. This way the commitment of lower executives and employees is assured and they feel highly motivated that their views are being acted upon by the senior management.
Culture of trust: And transparency develops which stands in very good stead at the strategy execution stage. Unlike when the strategy is developed exclusively in the board room it meets with strong resistance from the executives. The implementation becomes smooth and hitch-free because the ground realities were incorporated at the formulation stage.
Prerequisites for success in Internal Communication
(a) A leadership that believes in employees as vital partners and not as a mere resource.
(b) An ethical, transparent and empowering organizational culture.
(c) Careful selection of IC team members with a impeccable track record as line functionaries. Have humility, an open mind and high listening skills. If not it can lead to disaster.
I would like thank my friends in corporate and LinkedIn for their valuable insights which helped me clarify my doubts and share my own thoughts on Internal Communication.
Nice post Dilip Sir.
Thanks Lubna. My interest in IC is new found and have got to learn lots more. Your inputs helped. Regards.
I really like the way Mr. Navin Kumar has emphasized upon ‘Effective Communication” (EC) and how A Whole New Balance would work wonders for effective IC.
And when it comes to EC in IC, I also believe that nothing can beat face-time – be it a one-to-one meeting or a Town Hall. The impact is definitely that much more in face-time.
And when we talk about the Mumbai Dabbawalas, I would like to share the learnings from an interesting discussion on them which happened a couple of years ago:
Thanks and regards,
Hello Geetha, Its nice of you to appreciate Navin’s views. Issues highlighted by him offer good scope for further study to improve IC in organizations. Mr. Kalyan’s article is very interesting – enjoyed reading. Thank you and kind regards.
The quality of internal communication within an organization decides it’s survival. Also subsequent success as decided by the organization and it’s members/stakeholders is critically dependent on IC.Success itself is a process and an organization’s IC is also a process. Therefore, we need to understand that proficiency and success in one process would facilitate the same in another related process.
Now, the question is how much resources should we employ to make IC effective? The most intriguing instance is “The Dabbawallas” who have achieved six sigma capability. How much of resources as compared to their cash rich counterparts have they utilized to achieve effective IC? It is a question worth pondering very seriously. Just yesterday the news of a prominent insurance player backing out of a JV again makes us sit back and think abou the quality of their IC and also how they communicated with their JV Partner, a prominent insurance company from Europe.
Sir, you have rightly pointed out that any organization’s top brass devotes much more time on strategizing and/or visioning but they do not show the same kind of zeal in making it understood and operational among different stakeholders of the organization.Just like an organization’s structure tools and methods of IC also requires continuous iteration.
Concepts like Knowledge Management, and Learning Organization can not be operationalized without a solid foundation of IC.Too much of dependence on technology is also taking away the human touch. Just the other day I read about how people are gradually preferring the virtual world over real world when it comes to communication.This certainly has a direct impact on IC, because two managers would prefer to email, IM , and sms rather than talk it over face to face. At a leading private sector bank quick discussions are preferred over written notes while deciding on matters of loan as it ensures proliferation of learning from the more experienced to the less expereinced. Written word has it’s own value but it also makes us more cautious and brings down the level of insight among team members.Therefore, a balance of formal & informal, written & verbal communication goes into effective IC.Off course, the values like democracy,delegation, empowerment and so on would not get operationalized without IC.
Just one word from me – BRILLIANT!
And rightly appreciated by our esteemed reader Ms Geetha in her comments. I am myself new on this and your comments have given me rich insights to develop further:
(a) Power of IC in the Bombay Dabbawalas
(b) IC as a critical success factor in JVs
(c) Communication gap between formulating a strategy and its implementation.
(d) Yes IC in KM and Learning Organization.
(e) Having a judicious mix between technology based communication and face to face communication. One can take this important point forward to understand IC in the context of a MNC with a large number of subsidiaries spread across the globe.
Thank you Navin I am sure to use this for discussion in our future MBA batches.
So very kind of you to enrich this topic on IC. It is an amazing coincidence that I very much wished to add some classic examples of organizational leaders actually ‘walk the talk’ in IC but did not find any suitable. And you have presented these two very interesting ones.
We do know about the power of building ‘Boundary-less’ in pulling down silos and improving inter-department and interpersonal communications. But I am sure many of us were not aware of Jack Welch’s challenge in implementation which he overcame thru’ relentless communication.
The MindTree’s 95:95:95 principle is another gem of an example. As also energizing the ‘intranet’ by maintaining its freshness and vibrancy – is super especially when explained with the ‘salt lick’ example.
With you permission I may incorporate these examples if I have write again on internal communication. And I thank you for your time and effort in adding these comments.
With kind regards!
Thank you for ‘communicating’ these great learning takeaways about Internal Communication. The quote by G B Shaw says it all!
When it comes to communicating effectively, two leaders come to my mind and I would like to share here their views on the importance of being evangelists when it comes to internal communication especially:
Communicate, Then Communicate Again.
(An Extract from the book: Jack Welch and the GE Way)
“But it is Welch’s ability to get others excited about those good ideas that truly explains his phenomenal results.
He is a communicator par excellence. Of all his management secrets, his uncanny ability to communicate, to engender an enthusiasm in employees, may well be his greatest. If he likes an idea, he embraces it with the ardor of a fiery preacher delivering a favourite sermon
(An extract from the book: Jack: Straight From The Gut)
I was an outrageous champion of everything we did – from our early need to face reality and change the culture to our major initiatives that reshaped the company. Whenever I had an idea or message I wanted to drive into the organization, I could never say it enough. I repeated it over and over and over, at every meeting and review, for years, until I could almost gag on the words.
I always felt I had to be “over the top” to get hundreds of thousands of people behind an idea.
Looking at my handwritten notes for my Boca speeches over 21 years only reminded me of how many times I said the same things from different angles and with different emphasis. “Boundaryless” was a clumsy word I could barely get out of my mouth, and I butchered it a million times, but I never stopped saying it.
My behavior was often excessive and obsessive. I don’t know if that’s the only way, but it worked for me.
(An extract from the book: The High Performance Entrepreneur by Subroto Bagchi)
At MindTree, we use the 95:95:95 principle…. 95 per cent of the people must get access to 95 per cent of the information, 95 per cent of the time. Providing such a flood of information is possible only with an electronic infrastructure like a good intranet system that is content-rich.
“Your intranet site is more than just a nice looking thing. In time, it will become your most important communication real estate. I like to look at an intranet site as what I call a ‘salt lick’. In forests, different animals may graze or hunt all over the forest, but periodically, they must all come to the salt lick from where they take back vital salt. In forests that do not have natural sources of sodium, conservationists create salt licks for the animals. The intranet is your organizational salt lick. That is where people keep coming back. So, you must pay attention to not only the look and feel (consistent with your brand) of the structure but most importantly, the content. Content is like fish. Make sure, it is always delivered fresh. Richer the content of the intranet and higher the built-in interactivity, greater will be your capacity to create instant communication and a feedback system….
Write, write and write some more. As I said earlier, content is like fish. Deliver it fresh and populate your website with it, all the time.”
Thanks and regards,