Communicating In Chaotic EnvironmentsWritten by Robert F. Abbott
How do you, or would you, communicate in a chaotic environment?
That question was put to me by a reader who works in big, frantically-paced telecommunications company. Many projects operate at same time, and many connections exist among project teams.
In this environment, teams work independently, but at same time depend on each other for critical information. Without that information, time is wasted and progress slowed.
In a broader sense, challenge is to create communication systems that gather, process, and disseminate critical information. With this information, teams can work more efficiently and effectively.
The reader reports that one solution emerged out of a technical forum organized around a very large project. He says that while participants exchanged technical information, a lot of value came from process, as well as content.
Specifically, many participants got to know each other, sharing their experiences and insight. This opened up person-to-person channels that had not existed before. New, informal networks developed and participants found alternative ways to get information.
Therefore, he suggested that quarterly conferences might be a good idea, because they provide a mechanism for further developing and extending these networks.
My suggestions complemented his experience and thoughts. I recommended that each team develop an information requirements list at its planning meetings. After articulating such a list, team members can begin identifying where and how they will get this information. In other words, start with objectives, a strategic approach.
Communicating with Offsite WorkersWritten by Robert F. Abbott
How do you, or would you, communicate with employees who work offsite?
Perhaps you have telecommuters reporting to you, or sales reps who work out of offices in other cities. How do you communicate with them?
Let's start with strategic issues: what do you want to accomplish by communicating with them? And, why would they want to communicate with you?
Strategic means you'll probably want to deal with issues like productivity, accountability, and predictability. You want to know what offsite employee does, how she does it, and what she will do in future.
Still in strategic vein, you'll ask yourself why she would want to communicate with you: some reasons might include need to maintain human contact with office, to get resources from you, or to work on her productivity.
To return to our sales reps example, you might want them target certain prospects or to focus on high-margin products, From other side, you might ask them about their needs and discover they need to know about product availability and a competitor's new products.
Once you have a clear, articulated understanding of why you're communicating, you can move to tactical issues. Issues such as: how often, what issues to raise, and by what means.
Normally, you'll find tactical matters tend resolve themselves if you do a good job on strategy. That is, answers to tactical questions tend to flow out of decisions made in setting up strategy.