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January 12, 2011

Communication Planning for 2011: Resolve to plan purposefully for effective communication

When you set off to reach your ambitious business goals in 2011, remember that the most effective leaders distinguish themselves through communication.  Though it may seem like common sense to invest time in communicating effectively, our data show that it is not common practice.

Case in point: dozens of leaders used our QuickAssess Diagnostic last year to measure their teams’ performance and the importance they place on several critical communications skills. The aggregate results confirm what we see time and again – many leaders need to focus more on planning their communication to employees. 

Why don’t leaders devote more time to improving communication?  They say they are too busy, or feel they should focus on other priorities. Yet being purposeful about communication can unite employees around the company’s goals, build trust and increase employee engagement that is directly connected to business success.

When done effectively, communication can make a difference for every organization.  Especially at times of change, when motivators like compensation and benefits may not be as readily available, communication provides the intangible benefits that employees crave:  knowledge, support, recognition, a feeling of being connected at work.

Think about it – you have planning processes for all key areas in your organization – strategic plans for your business, succession plans for your leaders, and development plans for your people.  Why not communication?

This New Year, resolve to take time to plan each communication to employees, whether it is to an individual, a group or an organization. Think through what you want to accomplish, the people to whom you are communicating, the messages you want to deliver, the best tactics to deliver them, and how you will measure success. This process is outlined in our leadership tool, “Take 5™ to communicate well”  that helps managers at every level to plan, deliver and measure their communications effectively and efficiently.

Another opportunity for many organizations is in the area of continuous improvement in how they communicate with employees.  Just as you have an ongoing plan for continuous improvement in your business, you should have a plan to continuously improve communications.

You may be familiar with the Deming Cycle, the continuous improvement process that is the basis of Six Sigma and Kaizen improvement programs in manufacturing. It also has been adapted for use in driving business strategy and can work well as a model for increasing your communication effectiveness.  Consider these steps:

Plan – Establish business and communication objectives and processes to deliver expected results.  This includes a careful analysis to clarify how you define and measure success and what actions are needed (and by whom) to achieve it. Processes also include effective ways to inspire desired action among your target audiences, particularly through communication that helps them connect their work with the business objective.

Do – Implement your new communication processes, on a small scale first if possible, to test your assumptions and ideas and provide the basis for further improvement.

Check – Measure new communication processes and compare results against goals and expected results to discover any differences.

Act – Analyze the differences to determine their cause and apply changes for continuous improvement.  Repeat the process and apply the model continuously to achieve your intended business and communication objectives.

As a leader, you set the tone for how information flows and how employees work and interact together in your organization.

What are you going to do this year to improve your communication – and through it, your business?

For some more ideas on communicating your strategic plan, click here.


- David Grossman

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