Effective Communications to Reduce Risk
In today’s economic climate its vital for business’s large and small to reduce costs and maintain a decent level of profit.
One of the biggest causes of loss is through lack of communications, between management and between employees and obviously between management and employees.
Its a well known fact seen in most offices, the managers will stick together and as long as its in their interest will communicate upwards and very rarely will they communicate down the ladder. I use the word communicate, managers will give orders down the ladder but only a few will effectively communicate their requirements.
An example that can be used to demonstrate the above:-
A building site with management and skilled/unskilled workers, the contract normally will have penalties for late completion so the work must be completed to schedule.
The supervisor or foreman is asked by the site manager for an update on the building of a wall……the supervisor scratches his or her head and steps out to have a look, returning the supervisor reports that the wall has not been started, the manager gets angry and screams at the supervisor that the project is now a week behind schedule, and that a subcontractor was due the next day to install something on to that wall…….
Its a familiar situation and the project risks could start to increase from minor to major with potential financial penalties.
To remedy and to have prevented the problem, the site manager should have had daily meetings with not only the supervisor but ALL the workers, here each morning before starting work the daily workload is discussed and simple items checked:
1. Do we have a bricklayer?
2. Do we have someone to supply the bricklayer with bricks and mortar?
3. Do we have sufficient bricks?
4. Do we have sufficient sand and cement to make the mortar?
5. Do we have the required tools and machinery?
If any of the above items are not available, then contingency plans can be made, for example if there is no bricklayer can an agency or other site supply one within an hour?
The normal problem would be that there are no bricks, as the bricklayer didn’t tell the supervisor who didn’t tell the manager who should have checked himself anyway.
At least if there is a problem, and bricks need to be ordered and delivered then and the task that the bricklayer had cannot be done until delivery then the bricklayer must be given another job that he is capable of doing, some may be told to go home until required……….this is very poor business practice as the bricklayer may find alternative work and no other person is available……lessons should be learned and the bricklayer could be given alternative site work or transferred to another company site for the day or so it would take for a new delivery to occur.
The building site example can be used across any business type, if its not materials it could be information that’s missing.
The key to communication is an effective meeting, these are a traditional part of management but there are good reasons for actually letting the staff have meetings amongst themselves, the results can be fed to the responsible manager and are often very good at identification of problems.
All meetings MUST be subject to an agenda and if possible to an agreed time, no more than 3 hours or the effectiveness will be reduced by uncomfortable attendees.
Do not allow the meeting agenda to be hi-jacked by anyone, its a very common problem where someone or a minority of attendees will discuss something they could easily discuss elsewhere, and as the meetings must have minutes taken they should state if a certain person/persons started a discussion not on the agenda and that they agreed to discuss it either at a separate meeting, or it could be added to the agenda of the next meeting.
All meetings will result in actions being required and persons appointed and named in the minutes as being tasked with that action, with a date that the action is to be completed. If the action is not completed by the next meeting there MUST be a consequence and not simply just carrying the action forward to the next meeting
Positive consequence IE thanks would be given for the action being closed so to ensure that the actions are closed in the future a negative reinforcement is required, obviously the consequences should be set and agreed buy the entire management team in advance, but often just the fact that the minutes will show the inaction and would be read by the MD or board of directors would be enough to ensure that actions are carried out.
Author Nigel Grimshaw