Monday, 6 August 2012

Internal Communication and organizational leadership

The proverbial "The left hand does not know what the right hand is doing" is true of most of the large organizations .This adage is certainly true of governments all over the world .I have observed this over the last three decades in  the government of one of the biggest states(Uttar Pradesh , India) in the world .(Population of UP as per 2011 census is about 199.5 million .).Internal communication is extremely important and vital for the efficiency and effectiveness of any organization .Still , there  is hardly any emphasis on this critical aspect of governance and management.Internal        communication goes to the heart of effective coordinated functioning of a big organization,business , government or non-profit.When Deloitte and Touche Human Capital conducted a survey among American CEOs .They  were asked  to list  issues   very important to the success of the organisation, 95% of them said “effective internal communication. Simultaneously, only 22% agreed that they thought it was being delivered effectively.
                      American Society of Public administration has published this excellent  book"The  Practice of Government Public relations" in 2012(CRC Press , Taylor and Francis group, New York), edited by Mordecai Lee, Grant Neeley and Kendra Stewart .The chapter on "Internal Public relations for Personal and Program Success" has been contributed by Anne Zahradnik and makes very important and useful points about internal communication.
  I have no intention of going into the history of Internal Communication .But I am certain that it is a very young and evolving branch of knowledge.I spent long hours of reflection on why such an important discipline started to emerge so late.One reason could possibly be that internal communication was presumed to take place automatically and effortlessly .If it is so , this was a baseless presumption."Internal communications is fundamentally a management discipline, but as a discrete discipline of organizational theory it is correspondingly young. Stanford associate professor Alex Heron's "Sharing Information with Employees" (1943) is an outlier among texts which focus solely on the factors involved. Theorization in academic papers accelerated in the 1970s, but mainstream management texts mostly post-date 1990."(Wikipedia).        
                       What exactly the key internal  audiences  need to know?How do you want people to feel and by what time?There are six major objectives  why you should have a good internal communication within an organization.;
1.To make interactions harmonious.
2.To get smoother project approvals from the bosses.
3.To get funding without peril.
4.To improve your  reputation with internal audiences .Good internal communication  should reinforce the impression that you are competent and professional .It should highlight your functions as well as your contribution to the organization .Organizations increasingly see Internal Communication as playing a role in external reputation management also .There is a strong effect of employee advocacy on organization's reputation.
5.Internal Communication  also helps to garner  support of employees at all levels  for decisions.The goals and priorities of the department, along with their challenges and rewards,  are to be communicated to the internal audiences.All the policy decisions along with financial implications need to be shared with them .
6.Internal Communication   plays a very important role in change management as also in times of crisis.            
                Generally speaking , the five main areas  for making  internal communication plan  are as follows:
1. Internal Audiences/stakeholders.Internal communication is upwards , horizontal and downwards. Upward communication should be the primary focus of  internal communication .
2. Infrastructure
3. Managers and leaders:Effective communication is about enabling managers to be effective and responsible with their teams from day to day.
4. Line of sight for business strategy: An effective internal communication helps make sure the strategy is clearly defined and supports people translating the business strategy into action. 
5. Research and measurement.       

                                         The various forms of internal communication are:
1.Plans and key programmes  of the  organization.We need to list key messages also.The goals and priorities of the department, along with their challenges and rewards,  are to be communicated to the internal audiences.All their policy decisions along with financial implications need to be shared with them .
2.Periodic progress reports .
a)We should describe accomplishments in terms of benefits to the organization .These could include well publicized achievements with documentary  evidence.Their frequency and effectiveness should be carefully worked out .
b)These should also include unresolved work problems and also include suggestions for improvement.These  should clearly indicate the financial implications.
c).These should also cover morale and interpersonal relations among the subordinates.
d).These reports need to be frequent , though these could contain smaller bits of information
e).These could be through emails  as also through multi- media presentations.
f).News releases should also be issued to supplement the written messages.Media relations involve a news release making the announcement , a media conference after some time  , and a second news release announcing new features to be added in the next six months.
These should also be discussed in the web pages and  testimonials/quotes from influential persons be got and  put  on website.
g).It should include the public ramifications of the changes proposed or under way .
h).Community group or organization should be spoken to once a quarter.
i).One new feature story  be got published once a quarter.
3.Internal communication should cover the evaluation of the programmes.
4.If internal audiences are dispersed geographically , the progress reports could be  plotted on a map.If the purpose of internal communication is to tell people in different locations to know what to do and by what time,it should be done by sending clear and specific messages.They should also be told how the achievement against these objectives will be measured.
6.There should be system of tracking the feedback and questions of constituents.
7.Frequent face to face meetings.
                         To maintain credibility in internal communication , you need to stay current ,updated and skilled .You need to be explicit about the connection between communication and its consequences .You should connect the dots for the internal audiences , particularly your bosses. I trust that internal communication is a powerful tool which any organizational leader can ignore at his/her own peril .