How to fail at communication and change management: Part 2

Part two of our “How to Fail” series for businesses – learn a lesson from your competitor’s mistakes.

We’ve all been there. Your boss catches you in the elevator or in the hall and asks you for a quick status update on a big project.

The truth is, you don’t know.

You sent it to another department head for input weeks ago, and you haven’t heard anything back. So, you give an overly optimistic assessment, then rush back to your desk and fire off a dozen emails to find the answer.

In case you’re new to our “How to Fail” series, here’s something for you to consider as you read this post:

Research from Towers Watson showed organizations with high effectiveness in change management and communication are 3.5x times more likely to significantly outperform their industry peers.

Poor communication, on the other hand, costs individual companies an average of $62.4 million USD per company each year.

How to create effective and efficient communication in your organization?

Most businesses and their employees understand the importance of effective and efficient interdepartmental communication. Where many start to struggle is in implementation: the how.

Three processes are central to creating a framework through which companies achieving high effectiveness in communication and change management:

  1. Create a system that streamlines communication between departments
  2. Standardize the necessary touch points between departments and optimize the time-frame between them to allow easy project tracking and accountability
  3. Ensure employees understand how their work fits within and impacts the entire organization

In part one of our “How to Fail” series, we shared the story of a client that was drowning in tens of millions of unnecessary emails between their head office and their stores, and how they were able to create systems that streamline communication between departments to make their operations more efficient.

If you haven’t given it a read, you can still find it here: How to Fail, Part 1.

In this post, we’ll share a case study that demonstrates why standardizing touch points between departments is critical for project tracking, and creating transparency and accountability in your organization.

Step 2: Standardize touch points between departments to create transparency and accountability

Case Study: Effective meetings: Getting it done with less wasted time

I thought our merchandising area was efficient, everybody is working so hard. I had no idea how much time was being wasted in our day to day efforts. We’re going to focus on making sure that we keep the process tight from now on.

– Merchandising Executive  

A common failure we have witnessed among our retailer and big box general merchandiser clients is spending considerable amounts of time in ineffective meetings.  In fact, a recent TPG study of retailing merchants revealed that 25-50% of executive and management time was spent in unnecessary meetings.

I go to meetings and spend almost half my time listening to people reviewing information that I already reviewed before the meeting. What a waste! I usually bring along other things to work on.

– Replenishment Senior Manager

Meetings, like taxes, are unavoidable. And they’re often important. Meetings are how these organizations form plans and standardize communication.

The problem many organizations run into is organizing meetings between cross-functional departments, suppliers, vendors, and customers. One particular retailer found that just over 25% of their managers, directors and VPs were spending a large portion of their time attending ineffective meetings.

Common problems included:

  1. Ending meetings without deliverables or actionable plans in place
  2. Dealing with unequal communication for various stakeholders. For example, the supply chain group, composed of a mix of imported and domestic sourcing, requires dynamic planning, while the marketing department has a more static calendar and project deadlines
  3. Tracking down projects and keeping the ball rolling. Because there was no clear accountability for who needed to complete the work, or who to notify when work was completed, things kept falling through the cracks

To solve these problems, the company implemented a new meeting structure that included:

  1. Standardized meeting summaries including lists of deliverables with due dates
  2. Assigning completion of tasks to single individuals to create transparency and accountability so critical tasks no longer fell through the cracks
  3. Managing communication between departments using a master calendar with a “retail rhythm” that harmonized the static deadlines of the marketing department with the fluctuating needs of the supply chain

Ultimately, these accountabilities helped prevent overtime, unnecessary delays, and missed deadlines, and eliminated the estimated 40% of time managers were spending in meetings reviewing work that was already supposed to be done.

Gain the competitive advantage of being 3.5X more likely to significantly outperform your industry peers, with the bonus of more harmonious department relations.