I was working with a prospect recently and lamenting to my team that the organization felt like a bunch of stovepipes, with the VPs competing for resources and influence. I said something along the lines of “Arrgh, this organization is too small to be so silo’d!”
Then it hit me: the company had gone through a fairly large downsizing recently. The corporate culture was one I was more likely to find in a much larger organization because the culture had not adjusted to the new realities of the smaller organization! Ick.
Then I realized the opposite can happen as well. As an organization grows, the culture, communication channels and corporate underground may be more appropriate for a small company, not the realities of a larger one. In fact, it’s happened at Matrix Group, although we’re certainly not large (under 50 staff) and our growth has been slow and steady. I used to rely on word of mouth to communicate with staff about all kinds of things. I would chat with a few folks, who would pass along the news. I would also hold “town meetings” and invite anyone who was available. Turns out that when we hit the magic 40-staff number, my informal communications style didn’t work as well anymore. I now have to over-communicate, send out lots of all staff e-mails, direct the Directors and Project Managers to reiterate news and decisions, and hold multiple meetings to get feedback. Guess what? I still get complaints every now and then from staff who feel they weren’t consulted or didn’t know a specific decision was made.
I’ve realized something really important as well. The corporate underground and communications channels always lag behind and must be coaxed and directed to meet the needs and realities of the current organization. And just because I say I have an open door policy doesn’t mean people believe me (even though it’s true!) So these days, my communications mantras include:
- Assume imperfect communication between staff.
- Send out regular e-mails about the most important things even when I think everyone already has the information.
- Use staff meetings as a means for disseminating news, decisions, policies, new technologies, cool projects.
- Rely on the Directors and Project Managers to reinforce the communications.
- Post as much information as possible to the intranet.
- Solicit feedback directly, especially from people I’m not hearing from.
How about you? How is your company’s underground working? Does it fit the size and needs of your current organization?