Solving your organizations communication problems

By - November 18, 2015

Recently, we performed an assessment of two departments and provided recommendations around staffing, organizational structure, and roles and responsibilities for each department. By the third interview, it was clear that the organization didn’t have issues with their organizational structure or staffing but they had a problem with communication. These two departments serve a critical role in supporting the business units of the organization.

Several communications roadblocks had emerged over time, most notably:

  1. Roles and responsibilities were not clearly defined or documented across groups. The business didn’t know whom to contact for a given issue, and as a result, multiple people from multiple departments would respond, when one focused resource could have handled questions or issues.
    Best Practice: Work together to clearly define responsibilities and “owners,” for each area. Include customers (internal or external, as appropriate) to make sure they can use your definitions to navigate your organization and find the right points of contact when they need them. Walk through several different scenarios and put yourself in the customer’s shoes – how do they define their question or problem, who can best answer it, and how can they most effectively connect to get the information they need?
  2. General expectations were not set. Sometimes support functions will provide service level agreements (SLAs) to their internal customers, similar to those you might expect from an external vendor. Those SLAs didn’t exist, so it was hard for groups to know the response times to expect when they made a request of another group. Even if a responder responded in 10 hours, if the requestor was expecting a response in 8, that was a missed – albeit unstated – expectation.
    Best Practice: Once you’ve defined roles and responsibilities and you understand how your stakeholders will contact you. Also, define and communicate the response times they can expect and epending on the complexity of typical issues, this may require multiple SLAs: e.g., acknowledgement of receipt, estimate of resolution, and final resolution.
  3. Specific expectations were not set. John would ask Susan for her analysis and opinion on an issue. John rarely stated when he needed a response, and Susan rarely asked when John needed her response or stated when he could expect a reply. Then John and Susan embarked on that classic dance of “I’m just checking in….” and “I’m working on it…,” each growing increasingly frustrated by the other.
    Best Practice: When you ask someone for something and there’s a time constraint (and there usually is), include that information in your request. If someone asks you for something and doesn’t say when they need it, either ask for that information or suggest a realistic deadline for your response.

Changes like these often require a culture shift in an organization, and it’s easy to underestimate the change management required to make these changes, “stick.”  To learn more about how RSM can assist you with your other business needs, contact RSM’s management consulting professionals at 800.274.3978 or email us.

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