Coping with Communications in Chaos
Blog: Jim Sinur
The amount of confusion and disorder around communications is just growing by the second in the real world. Conservative numbers say we waste over 30% of our effort just dealing with communication issues. Aggressive numbers say that 60% of work is about the work, not the work itself. Much of this work about work is communications. Chaotic communications are a massive drag on productivity. It only gets compounded in organizations changing to meet their changing customer needs and demands for better services and products—all of this while having to produce bigger and better outcomes often measured in profitability. Let’s explore the problems that we all have with chaotic communications and what are the best coping mechanisms going forward.
Dealing with Noise Communications
We get so many communications simultaneously that it is overbearing. Sure we can make rules to put unique touches in our respective spam files/folders, but the influx of contacts is just overwhelming. We need to turn down the noise level by prioritizing communications. Often the coping mechanism is political and topic-based. Unfortunately, this is barely a minimum.
Grappling with Multiple Roles
Most roles have multiple and many reporting responsibilities, both solid and dotted lines. Many times people are playing various roles, thus adding another dimension to deal with daily. Sometimes the role is a crucial contributor, and sometimes the role is a manager who is responsible for the contribution of others. Each role over time requires a shifting set of emerging priorities which changes which communications are the most important at any given moment.
Keeping Pace with Expected Results.
Because there are so many communications and roles to associate them with, it is hard to keep pace with efforts. Everyone expects all players “to be up on the latest developments”, so we find ourselves scrambling to be pertinent to actions and their highly desired results. Speed is increasing, not decreasing, so this is a tiring effort filled with stress.
I’m sure we all can identify with these problems and more, but the big question is, “What are we going to do about it?” We can do several things besides getting “Sick of Slack” and getting “Tired of Teams.” So here are some coping mechanisms.
Instead of showing people how much we know or how important we are by droning on with detail, try summarizing and netting things out. It needs to be done carefully not to offend others but still speed up the communication process. It means that we each become “good citizens of communications”. Let others ask for the detail.
Linking Communications to Results
The very best way to prioritize communications is to link them to desired results. If the touches don’t deliver results, they become noise and should be set aside or ignored. It requires a simple discipline of prioritizing results and link only essential documents to them. It will require a new kind of tool that focuses on results, not just to speed up noise communications that we often see in modern collaboration tools.
Proactively Leveraging Shared Content
Often we have to scramble to find all the communications associated with the following activity about to hit us. Imagine all the content saved on a shared repository organized by results. It will cut the preparation time and link all the key participants to the latest content. Care must be taken not to collect too much stuff and name the content in obvious ways. The best content will float to the top by results pulling content there.
It’s time to focus on the organizational drag that chaotic communications are costing organizations dearly. The digital overload is real and climbing. There continues to be a significant increase in digital meetings, chats, emails, and document reviews. The preparation time it takes to be up to date to contribute is overwhelming and is often done in a reactive mode. Something has to change and will when communications are tied to results. The significant results and their focused activities must be supported by shared and up to the second content in various forms and formats. It’s time to turn chaos to order. It will put passion back into hybrid work and take the struggle out of communications.