How To Communicate Your Way To Scale
One of the challenges that business owners face when scaling is how to keep the team communicating effectively as headcount increases and teams are spread across different locations.
If you don’t get this right, you’ll face a range of issues, which are potentially terminal.
The few people that have the knowledge will be overburdened, with no-one else knowing how to ‘do what they do’. Quality will suffer as new team members make unnecessary mistakes. And work will be done far less efficiently without the sharing of knowledge, ideas and lessons.
And above all, the pace at which the organisation can evolve will be constrained by how well (and quickly) information flows around it.
So it’s therefore vital to setup the right communication systems. But critically, you need to do more than just enable communication, you need to foster it as well.
How many times have you heard a leader say ‘my door is always open’, but their behaviour is such that you’d never want to walk through it anyway? Leaders obviously need to step out of their office and demonstrate the behaviours that they’re trying to create.
Top talent wants to be respected and challenged. Sharing information sends the message you trust them to be competent and integral enough to understand and use the information. Holding high standards and believing in your team’s ability to perform is contagious, and helps you create a results-oriented culture inside your business.
Establish an effective meeting rhythm
While most organisations recognise the need to get teams together (physically or virtually), it’s often done without a clear purpose, and at worst, meetings serve as a productivity drain rather than enhancer.
The authors of the bestseller Rockefeller Habits 2.0, suggest the following meeting rhythm:
- The annual sets the strategic direction and priorities for the year and beyond.
- The quarterly breaks these longer-term priorities into bite-sized priorities that the company can digest.
- The monthly addresses the bigger issues or opportunities that surface around the strategic direction.
- The weekly keeps the priorities top-of-mind and drives discussions around input from customers, employees, and competitors, which feeds back into the quarterly and annual planning processes.
- The daily huddle tracks progress and brings out sticking points that are blocking execution of the strategic direction.
Setup fit-for-purpose communication tools
Tools such as Slack, Yammer or even closed social media groups are a good start, but people need to see their value and be given a bit of encouragement to use them.
In fact, Slack’s own growth story highlights this. The team at Slack realised that for their product to ‘stick’ in a customer’s organisation, it needed support from team leaders (someone to champion the cause) and needed whole teams to use it (otherwise people eventually revert to old approaches).
So your leaders need to be continuously reinforcing collaboration tools and actively using them in a way that encourages others to get on board.
Create opportunities for collaboration
There are numerous benefits in getting people collaborating that don’t normally.
Newly formed relationships can make it easier to get things done across teams. People get a better understanding about each other’s role and how they contribute to organisational outcomes. Their different ways of thinking and working can identify mutual opportunities for improvement. And the relationships create a new path for information to flow across the organisation.
This can be achieved through a variety of approaches such as innovation projects (e.g. idea jams, hackathons), staff rotations, ‘a day in the life’ presentations, guest speakers, and many others.
Make it part of the culture
If your organisation doesn’t have continuously reinforced – and shared – beliefs about communication, then it simply won’t be a priority.
For example, consider two organisations that have the same core objective to deliver ‘world-class customer service every time’. Their culture might lead them to take very different approaches to resolving a customer complaint.
Organisation A might go about it through individual acts of heroism, where a lone wolf works valiantly to resolve the issue. They diligently document everything in the CRM for the next customer service rep that deals with the same customer…
In Organisation B, on the other hand, the customer service rep consults the knowledge management tool, and failing that, sends a chat message to other team members to see if they have any suggestions about how to handle the complaint. They also liaise with the product team to ensure that the underlying product issue that caused the complaint is permanently resolved, and when that finally happens, they call the customer back to let them know.
Which organisation is going to stand a better chance of achieving their objective? Unless your organisation values and provides recognition for the type of collaboration in Organisation B, it’s unlikely to occur.
We’ve all experienced poor communication, from the constant stream of irrelevant email to ineffective meetings that leave you dumbfounded. But what about the positive side – when have you experienced a small change or improvement that delivered huge results?