One of my heroes in the internal communications world is Professor Clutterbuck of the UK. He's a hero because I think he has done more than anyone else to establish what is effective communication, and how to improve internal communication.
Everyday in organizations around the world, millions of dollars and millions of hours of leaders' time is spent communicating. How can we improve internal communication to deliver the required return on that investment of time and money? Professor Clutterbuck identified four communication related factors that are present in all successful organizations and all successful internal communication initiatives.
So, how do we improve internal communication? One of the factors is clarity of purpose AKA creating an employee line of sight. Clutterbuck's research showed that successful organizations ensure that everyone on a team or everyone involved in or affected by a change program understands what it intends to achieve and how that aligns with the organization's overarching strategic intent. For example, change communications may be successful with managers and workers who are directly affected, but fail to reach the secondary audience of support workers because there is no clear articulation of the overarching purpose. The ability of those support workers to assist the reorganized team is therefore adversely affected because the organization's intentions are unclear and internal communications need to improve.
Inspiration is a most powerful team building tool, and inspiration is directly proportionate to how clearly the team's purpose is defined. If I was to ask someone to tell me where they're going with their team and that person hesitates, unable to clearly articulate the answer, then this is an indicator internal communication needs to improve. Effective communication establishes a clear link between the purpose of the team and the everyday tasks of that team. It reminds me of a statement. I can't recall where I first heard it, but it goes like this, "The clearer the picture, the fewer the distractions, the easier the decisions."
Clarity of purpose enables improved performance through improved employee decision making and focus of effort. How? Because by fostering a team's shared understanding of its overarching purpose, it enables the team to deliver on three things. First, it enables that team to establish clear and agreed priorities, in terms of how they will deliver on that overarching purpose. That then enables the team to make more effective decisions which then leads into the ability to galvanize collaborative and purposeful efforts of the team.
So, to improve internal communication, never assume that employees understand the purpose of their team and how that relates to the organization's overarching purpose. Effective communication never assumes that team members understand how their talents and efforts contribute to executing on the team's purpose. What effective communication does is make those connections. And as Professor Clutterbuck's research showed, clarity of purpose is the cornerstone of all successful organizations and all successful initiatives. So if you are asking yourself he question “How do I improve internal Communication?” Focus on clarity of purpose first.
OK, that's it for this time. Hope to see you next time. Until then, happy communicating.
Lorri Lennon is an award-winning advisor, trainer and author in leadership communication. She has 20 years’ experience managing communications for large global organisations.
Lorri conducts master classes to help participants maximise their communications ROI.
Mariska Mannes is an experienced communication consultant. She holds a Master of Management majoring in Communication, which allows her to bring a blend of qualification and practical experiences to her training programmes. Her expertise is in business and cross cultural communication and behaviour. For more information visit Mariska's LinkedIn profile.