A reflection on my inquiry into communication this year and all of the lessons learnt along the way.
It is again that time of year when we stop and reflect. This year I chose ‘communication’ as my one word to focus on throughout. It was a word that stemmed in part from a review in my workplace, with our focus being on working with a wide range of stakeholders to support transformation and change. I therefore identified the following possibilities:
- Clarity – sometimes messages and meaning can get lost in their delivery, the challenge is when to add more or keep it short.
- Consistency – whether responding via email or working with someone in person, it is important to be consistent in regards to the way things are done.
- Collaboration – it can be easy to focus on the job at hand and the person that you maybe working with, however it is important to remember that it often takes a team and think about ways to keep everyone abreast.
- Context – so much of communication is about adjusting to the moment, it is important to change pitch or approach depending on the circumstance.
- Transparency – sometimes the key to communication is the culture that it is built upon, this though is often built upon other actions and activities.
My first approach was to focus on the technical side of things. This involved:
What I learnt with each of these initiatives is that even when you work collaboratively in developing and refining a particular approach, if other stakeholders do not feel there is a problem or that there is benefit to be gained then it can all be to no avail. Unlike Mark Zuckerburg, I feel that technology alone will not solve all of our ills. Change involves people
This focus on human element relates to the question of why communicate in the first place. One of the things that became more and more apparent as the year has passed is that it is not necessarily the technology that is lacking, but the intent and understanding behind what is actually being communicated. These dialogues discussions often involves multiple parties. Seth Godin captures this succinctly, explaining that:
It takes two to be understood. Not just speaking clearly, but speaking in a way that you can be understood.
What then is important in regards to support and change is creating the conditions within which people can be heard. Dave Cormier recently reflected on grappling with this situation too:
Technology projects everywhere tend to cross over different departments and responsibilities. Lawrie Phipps told me that this is called “matrix decision making”. Where a project reports up through multiple decision makers who may or may not have similar ideas of how to get a particular problem solved. Imagine 6 people sitting around a table all reporting to six different directors. It’s a common problem, and we had it.
I really related to this. The challenge of being understood is identifying the context at hand and starting there. Something I picked up from coaching. Although the message shared maybe the same in shape and content, the story used to convey it always changes. Everyone and every school has something important to them and I have found it important to tie conversations to that. Although this is not always easy, i guess this is the art of education.
I must admit that when I started in my current position I was frustrated by the processes associated with getting everything checked and signed off. Yet as time has gone by, I recognise how important this is with the complexities associated with stakeholders and communication. Although I still believe in the importance of autonomy and agency, I think that in a large organisation this involves taking initiative to instigate various actions, not in making rash decisions.
So what about you? How have you gone this year? Have you any tips associated with transformation and change? As always, comments and webmentions welcome.
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