PocketChange has moved!

You should be automatically redirected to its home on my new site, SkaareWorks, in 6 seconds. If not, visit
and update your bookmarks.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Want to Communicate? Don’t Call the Communication Department

Communication is one of the ironies of organizational life.

Ask management what is the most challenging issue facing the organization and, undoubtedly, they will say poor communication. And if you then push them to define communication, they will likely respond with words like listening, sharing, honesty, credibility, and trusting.

Now, ask management what the communication staff does and they probably will tell you in so many words, services: design, writing, website development, event management, and the like. “We tell them what we want in a brochure, and they get it done.”

What’s happening here?

  1. Communication is understood as strategic, but communicators are viewed as tactical
  2. Executives and managers believe they are the organization’s communicators.
  3. Management thinks communication and published materials are the same.
  4. Communication, as management defines it, is poor.

That wasn’t so hard to figure out.

Why isn’t the communication staff stepping up?

  • They get paid for what their communication major prepared them to do: that is, techniques.
  • Building websites is a lot more fun than figuring out business problems they know little about.
  • Too many people still join the communication department because “they like people.”
  • Most communicators don’t aspire to upper mobility outside the communication department.

Why isn’t management correcting the mismatch?

  • Their career success, they believe, was built in part on their effective communication skills.
  • They confuse communication with information, which they consider something they originate, regulate, and approve.
  • They have rarely met any other professional communicator than an implementer.

So, how do you fill the chasm between the communication the organization needs and the communication the staff delivers?

  1. Define the competencies that professional communicators need to address management’s definition of communication, then match them against current capabilities in the communication department, and lay out a development program.

  2. Rebrand the communication department as experts in the human dynamics of the organization by identifying a core group of those who grasp the people and business aspects of the organization and those who perform services. Spin-out the later into a captive firm.

  3. Involve the rebranded team early in the evolution of strategic organizational issues to let them understand and help shape responses rather than simply executing what non-communicators devise.