Tag Archives: productivity

What's at play in internal communications?

A couple of weeks or so ago I set up one of those polls in LinkedIn asking what the single most important aim of internal comms was. The chart of the results so far is thus:

internal_comms_chart1

The discussion continued on LinkedIn, with a lively engagement on what the most importan aspect might be. Now of course, this is all a bit phantasmagorical as in real life there’s no single one most important aspect, but the discussion did draw out some interplays between the different aspects.

I tend to agree with Nicky Fried’s comment that:

If we, as communicators, are able to link each employee to the corporate vision – the rest takes care of itself.

but as we see above most people disagree and think engagement is the most important aspect rather than the vision or strategy. There was also an important contribution from Mark Barwick, who argued that I’d made an error by missing out Productivity as the key aim. For Liam FitzPatrick  however, asking what aim might be most important implied conflict or polarities between ‘productivity/strategy/engagement’.

My view on this is that we’re not talking about polarities and certainly not about conflicts, but different spheres of action and influence. I’d still place strategy as the most important aim and align its relationship with engagement and productivity as so:

internal_comms_triangle

But then, as I pointed out to Mark, the strategy might not be productivity, it could be to say, increase market share. The ultimate end, and the ultimate end of all business, would be Profit. We might therefore, replace Producivity with Profit as the driver. Thus all internal communications becomes a drive to profit.

We therefore end up with a chart such as this:

internal_comms_triangle1

This creates a very instrumental, one might almost say brutalist picture of the enterprise. What’s missing is the ethos of the company – it’s brand and its culture. For me at least, the brand is all about internal communications – we’re articulating the brand to our shared internal audience. So what we need to do is bring this branding aspect into the equation:

culture

Taken together these aspects create the enterprise’s culture. One can then begin to imagine who the communications would change as each of these gains ascendancy over the other. Profit must always have the final say – or the business goes out of business. But if profit becomes the only driver, what then for internal communications?

I think this is where Visteon came unstuck. They created a Culture, complete with a well-defined Corporate Social Responsibility and communicated it well enough so that their employees not only knew about it, they both understood it and bought into it. It was when Visteon itself, driven by the profit motivator, forgot that aspect of its culture, that the workers of Visteon decided to occupy their plants.

Ethics and Integrity Policy, Visteon.

Which side of the firewall is hotter?

For something like 15 years much of my online activity and certainly most of my work has taken place inside the firewall. Of late however, I’ve ventured forth and am eagerly talking with those within and beyond the 2.0 pale. There’s a lot of excitement, there’s a lot of chatter and there’s a lot of Twitter.

In this space, some participants get very excited, especially over the new arrivals – it must be like having a favourite secluded holiday spot that suddenly gets found out by everyone, a sort of fear of The Beach 2.0. I think they think the nouveau arrives are tourists whereas they are intrepid explorers of 2.0. Either way there’s a vast amount of activity taking place and I’m sure someone is already working out the carbon emission comparison between sending a Twitter message (a ‘tweet’) and making a cup of tea. Point to note though is that all this is happening externally, it’s in the public sphere.

My prime focus is internal communications and intranets, so what I’m interested in is who does what in the organisation and how to ensure that both mission critical sales messages and information about the strategic business direction gets through to the right people at the right time. Despite the best efforts of some very clever people, it’s an area that’s notoriously difficult to measure. That said, what we’re interested in monitoring is impact on the business – time saved, better productivity, increased innovation, synergy through teamwork, enhanced collaboration and business transformation. The ultimate measure therefore is the bottom line – are we making the business more profitable?

This question started to get me thinking about what goes on outside the firewall and the merry mayhem that is social media today. I’m seeing a lot of messages and discussion about search engines, blogging, video and even music (see the excellent Blip.fm). But I ask myself, but, what does this achieve?

Is, and I know how heretical this may sound, is social media outside the firewall truly productive? I guess I can guess some of the answers in terms of wisdom of clouds, tapping into the mindset of consumers and turning that into lucrative products, niche marketing in the long long tail. But, does any of this actually generate wealth? In the firewall we create things and sell them, that’s the business model. Most of what goes on there is invisible. We want at least some privacy, and often we want a lot, confidentiality is important to any business – few, if none can be 100% transparent.

What this means is that we don’t see enough of what’s happening in the most important area of social media – that that’s happening in the firewall. What we do see, is all the white hot discussion about social media in the public sphere. That looks hip cool and funky trendy. But is it really hot?

My contention is that it’s what happens inside the firewall that’s really hottest. It’s for this reason that I’ve started to compile my list of Social Media Case Studies. I think I might call it the ‘Hot List’, as this is where 2.0 is really happening, not ultimately in blogs like this.

True or not? Be very interested in hearing what people think about this…