Provocative Propositions

In the hyperactive and challenging world in which we all live, it is becoming harder and harder for business leaders to find time to read, reflect and gain insight from the many valuable sources at our disposal.

In "Provocative Propositions", The Beacon Group attempts to fill that void by offering our opinion, often rather pointed, on a wide array of issues we believe are relevant to leading a modern organization.

The articles are catalogued into 12 categories so you can quickly and easily find a topic of particular interest. We then offer three easy steps under the heading "In Our Opinion" to help business leaders take action on the key themes.

Simply click on the category and read away.

Knowledge Transfer
Technology has revolutionized and democratized the ability to transfer knowledge between people within an organisation; between organisations and even between organisations and their customer and suppliers etc. Unfortunately, most organisations are failing rather miserably in their efforts to keep pace with this revolution not only because they are not capitalising on the pure technology itself but also because of traditionally poor communication channels and practices.

We all know that communication is a vital component in today's work place and that it will increasingly become even more so. We also know that inside most organisations, the traditional means and effectiveness of communication has been a problem for years. The Knowledge Transfer revolution has, therefore, had the exact opposite of the desired effect. In short, we have built new channels of communication on top of a flawed foundation and it has done nothing to address the message itself. The result? Management and employees alike still feel they are not being listened to nor understood. In fact, a recent survey suggests that only "26% of employees were satisfied with their leader's performance in communicating in a direct and straightforward manner".

In their book "The Transparency Edge", authors Barbara and Elizabeth Pagano, remind us of the fact communication whether analog or digital still depends on the sincerity, believability and resonance of the message with the intended recipient. They support the earlier findings of David Ulrich, in his book Results Based Leadership, that links the implications of communication and talent management and points out how managers misdiagnose what their employee's really value. At the top of the managers' list of what they believe is important to employees were things like compensation, job security, and good working conditions. On the other hand, when asked, employees themselves answer quite differently. Their top selection for what really counts includes such things as interesting/challenging work, appreciation, and inclusion. The fact is, in far too many organisations, effective Knowledge Transfer and two-way communication is just not happening. Otherwise, there would be no difference at all in these two perspectives.

When these factors, which ultimately affect employee morale, loyalty, effectiveness and tenure, are not being met, ultimately the organization as a whole suffers. Interestingly enough, according to Ulrich's research, these factors cost virtually nothing to fix and are often a direct result of an overall cultural paradigm, as opposed to budgetary constraints. Developing a culture that thrives on open communication and knowledge transfer (read no silos) is the key to success.

Steps to Improving Knowledge Transfer -Many companies make the mistake of believing they already have a robust communication system in place that operates fully and effectively on all levels. Truth is, more often than not, it doesn't. For your company to succeed, you must thoroughly examine your entire communication system and not just judge effectiveness by way of sheer volume or effort.

A Starting Point - A good way to begin is to develop a list of what are commonly believed to be the Knowledge Transfer (KT) and communication issues and/or roadblocks within the organization. Once created, conduct an Employee Survey that includes an area for specific commentary on the issue of KT. If the results from the survey differ from your list, it is recommended you conduct Focus Groups to accomplish two things, first, to address the issues that arise from the survey, and secondly to determine why these issues were not brought to light earlier.

Create an Open Environment - Most often, issues, ideas, and breakthroughs are overlooked, or not brought to the surface by employees due to a fear of reprisal. Good companies create a safe, open environment, free from fear and retribution. Author Jason Jennings would say "Celebrate great failures, and punish minor successes." You want your employees to speak up when they have a new idea, and not to be afraid even if the idea is radical. Having an open environment allows all employees to communicate effectively, and openly.

Listen, Understand and Act - It's been often said that in order to be an effective communicator, the majority of one's time is to be spent on the listening side of the conversation. Once your organization opens up, you had better be prepared to listen to whatever comes your way. Everywhere you turn, employees are looking for reward and recognition, therefore, it is imperative that you recognize your employees' contribution for communicating, and reward them with solutions and action.

Follow-up - Remember, when you created your existing communication infrastructure you thought it was bulletproof. Don't forget that markets, needs, issues, and technologies change. Stamp this newly created strategy with an expiry date (or at least a 'to be reviewed on' date). The more often you revisit this issue, the faster the feedback loop, and ultimately the more fluid the dialogue. Conduct further assessments, it is the organization's responsibility to help their employees succeed.
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