Setting a communication process agreement

Twenty years ago, we did not have the abundance of communication mediums we have in the workplace today. If you needed to tell someone something, you walked to their desk to tell them, picked up the landline, left them a memo or put a good old post-it note on their desk.

These days we have so many types of communication it would make our predecessors heads’ spin. Laptops and mobile phones give us an abundance of communication mediums at our disposal. Some may argue the choice is too much; text messages, emails, phone calls, social media groups, intranet and internet, the list goes on. With so many options, it’s no surprise that the preferred communication processes or communication culture differs from one organisation to the next, even one team to the next. Some rely heavily on emails, some try to avoid too many emails and prefer face to face communications. Even on an individual level some people favour email, some favour text messages, some like to call, some favour meetings, some prefer informal chats at the water cooler. It can be difficult to navigate what the best form of communication is for everyone, especially those just joining a company.

When there’s a fraction too much friction

Friction can arise simply from a lack of understanding or misinterpretation of the actual medium to choose for specific types of communication. For example, someone may take offence if their manager sends a team email addressing mistakes made by the individual. The manager however, may see this as the best way to make everyone aware of the insight and learnings to be gained from the mistake. Another common scenario is when someone has sent an email, hasn’t received a response for 24 hours and re-sends it only to get a snippy response, where the recipient is over-stretched and feels harassed. Misunderstandings arise quickly. We’ve all experienced this kind of friction and plenty more. The good news is we can address it simply by taking away the confusion around communication processes.

Formalising a Communication Matrix to remove friction

With the ever-growing options for communication available to people and technology changing at the rate it is, it’s becoming necessary for organisations to determine a communication agreement to ensure everyone is on the same page. Having a defined communication policy gives everyone a unified process to follow when it comes to communicating in a way that everyone is happy with. This lets people move forward in their communication; knowing their chosen medium is appropriate and acceptable.

Getting your team together to collectively define a communication matrix that works for everyone is a great idea as you can determine a communication matrix that the whole team is on-board with. Then type it up, document it, print it off and circulate for everyone to use.

I suggest teams to put in place a communication process whereby an issue/ topic will fall into one of at least three categories; each having a defined communication procedure. For example;

Category 1 
For issues where:

  • Something is NOT urgent
  • Information is being provided or passed on (no immediate action required) 

Agreed Communication medium: Email

Category 2
For issues where:

  • Something has occurred 
  •  Action is required (“I need your advice/ help/ support”) 

Agreed response time: 36-72 hours. Agreed Communication medium: Email plus text message

Category 3 
For issues where:

  • Something is urgent
  • Action is required immediately (“I need your advice/ help/ support”) 
  • Individual is unable to move forward without response 

Agreed response time: Immediate/ as soon as possible 
Agreed Communication medium: Email plus phone call OR just phone call OR text to call back immediately

Removing tension from teams is vital for collaboration. This is one simple way to get rid of unnecessary friction and pave the way for a more harmonious workplace. Give it a go.

Could your leadership team benefit from one of my tailored workshops? Please get in touch today. I’d love to help!

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