Thoughtful, clear communication is one of the greatest tools of any IT leader. It’s more important than a brilliant strategy or a cool new technology.
Because in order to rally people behind a goal, you must be able to explain where you’re headed and why. You must translate complex ideas into easy-to-understand information that guides many individuals to a shared destination.
There’s strength in numbers when everyone is working toward a common goal. Effective communication ensures everyone understands exactly where they’re going and how to get there.
Charting Your Course
Information Technology straddles two different worlds of language – machine and human. Machine language doesn’t lend itself to interpretation. The statement – If x, then y – is binary. It’s either true or false.
Human language is not as clear cut. Words are layered in meaning. They leave room for interpretation. The challenge increases with the cross-functional nature of IT projects, which require working with colleagues from different business areas that have their own vocabularies (including a dizzying variety of acronyms and abbreviations). Often, this also means building a team of global experts who don’t all share the same first language.
Which is why communication is so critical. Effective decision-making is an art in and of itself. But in their rush to kickstart the action, IT and business leaders often miss one crucial step – clearly communicating their decisions to everyone involved. When a message is unclear or poorly disseminated, the goal becomes muddy. Which is like sharing the map with only half your crew.
When communicating project decisions or giving direction, be conscious of the words you use. Ask yourself, have I expressed a definitive decision? Given clear direction about how to proceed? Included everyone who needs to know?
For a simple illustration of how your communication approach impacts execution, consider the difference between these two statements:
Statement 1 “I think buying milk at the grocery store might be the best way to go, unless someone has a better option.”
Statement 2 “From now on, we will buy milk at the grocery store, because we must cap the milk budget at $5.”
After hearing statement 1, your team members could be on their way to buy milk when they pass a convenience store and think, “This store is closer than the grocery store, so it seems like a better option to get the milk and return quickly.” i.e., The team doesn’t understand the imperative of staying on budget, because it wasn’t communicated clearly. They end up spending more, thinking they’re doing the right thing.
Conversely, if the team who received message 2 passes a big-box store that is advertising a 50% discount on milk, they will feel empowered to make the purchase and return – under budget.
Leaders generally have access to the most information and are further empowered by a big-picture view of the project. Which means they often take for granted that everyone on the team knows what is most important.
It’s also easy in today’s fast-paced environment to assume that everyone hears about a critical decision once it’s been made. When we’re in the business of information technology, and we have amazing information tools at our fingertips, it’s easy to assume that everyone’s informed. But communication doesn’t happen automatically. It takes planning and action.
Taking the time to put together both a communication strategy and a communication plan – and holding yourself accountable for their execution – can provide the consistency and predictability that IT organizations need to deliver on their goals.
An effective communication strategy should outline what needs to be communicated, why it’s important and the specific approach for engaging the intended audience.
Whereas your communication plan should provide your audience with the comfort of knowing who gets information, where they can find it, when it will be available and how often (or under what circumstances) they should expect updates.
Imagine everyone on your team knowing where to find the most up-to-date information, not to mention how and when to share their own essential input. How much more efficient and effective could you be?
How cShell can help
With years of executive leadership experience, our skilled consultants are ready to support you in the creation of an effective IT communication strategy. Let us help you develop an internal plan for keeping your organization informed. We will use our proven communication-planning and change-management methodologies to tailor a plan that fits your specific style and needs.
By engaging cShell to help strengthen your IT communication plan, you will gain insightful, unbiased feedback on your current strategy and direction.