Sunday, 26 April 2009

The secret of successful execution

The secret is effective interpersonal communication.

It bugs me that hardly any firms deliberately develop specific interpersonal communication skills and climate. It’s as if the notion of Communication is missing from collective management consciousness (except perhaps as ‘clear communication’).

What ‘got me going again’ was a client who having ‘done’ the soft ‘HR’ stuff: resolving toxic relationships in admin; management agreeing to design jobs and ‘organisational structure’ around their best people rather than expecting the reverse; and management agreeing a recruitment and succession plan and budget, decided that the next step is to focus on; get hard-nosed about; kick butt on KPIs (performance).

There seems to me to be a yawning gap in that sequence: a gap, which pervades management thinking, between the intention and actually achieving high performance. The gap is effective communication; communication that achieves purpose.

Plenty of attention seems to be paid to communicating numbers: accounts, sales, production. Enlightened managers even pay attention to identifying shared values, determining responsibilities and accountabilities (KPIs) and reviewing performance (Verne Harnish). Enlightened salespeople pay attention to building interpersonal communication relationships with current and prospective customers (Neil Rackham).

But typically the actual, specific interpersonal communication behaviours, patterns, attitudes and beliefs inherent in those activities receive little if any deliberate, specific attention. It’s as if there’s a widespread unconscious assumption that effective communication somehow magically happens if you get the right people with the right values, clear about the right responsibilities and accountabilities and they meet with the right frequency and the right task focus.

Well, clearly it typically doesn’t magically happen except perhaps for some people who fortunately are ‘naturally’ effective communicators just like some are naturally effective entrepreneurs. Just as entrepreneurship can be understood and learned (Jim Collins) so too can effective communication (What do they hear?) but where and how can we learn it?

Though Jim assumes that Entrepreneurship is learned in the many university business school courses and programmes, I disagree. At university business schools people typically learn to analyse and describe business, not to do it. The one thing that Business Schools typically don’t have and can’t teach is business sense and that’s at the core of entrepreneurship. It’s similar for communication.

Communication is learned by guided (coached) reflection on actual shared communication experience – on the job, in the role. Not in a ‘learning’ institution. Modern universities disable and discourage effective communication simply by the way they are organised (administrative bureaucracy). It takes a special organisational climate to enable reflective practice: one that’s rare in our X type Management dominated world (Telco allergy).

Get an experienced communication coach to work with you to enable you to learn together to communicate more effectively.

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