Sunday, June 14, 2009

Communicating Change - 3 Things to Remember

One of my favorite quotes comes from one of my favorite TV shows—The West Wing. In one episode, writer Aaron Sorkin has President Barlett say, "Decisions are made by those who show up."

I have seen this happen in my own groups at work, when one of my direct reports misses a meeting and something changes. I've felt it when I've had to miss a meeting myself, or when I wasn't invited in the first place. This often produces a clumsy moment days or weeks later when someone is blindsided by the change resulting from that meeting. If you have had this happen to you, you know how painful and frustrating it can be.

Perhaps it's a trait fostered by my astrological sign (Gemini), if you believe in such things, or perhaps it stems from my being the youngest of three siblings: Communication is paramount to me, and I tend to over—rather than under—communicate (I am not perfect at this! Who is?), and I tend to try to participate as much as possible in everything that's going on.

So, how can we avoid cutting people out of the loop, or assuming that people now something they don't know? Here are three quick tips:

  1. Make sure the right people show up: Check and double check to be inclusive in your meeting invitations
  2. Do pre-meeting communication: Agendas and subtopics should be clearly communicated in advance, so that unidentified stakeholders have the opportunity to come forward
  3. Do post-meeting communication: The results, decisions, and outcomes from the meeting should be as widely distributed as possible without breaking confidentiality. (And give people a way to access this in a relatively permanent manner--not just email. Post information on a wiki, attach minutes to a project plan, whatever works.)
Make sure that people who weren't able to show up still have knowledge about the decisions that have been made. The people who habitually don't show up would rather have other people make their decisions for them.

Give it some thought.

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