Cheap Talk + Wine: RCMP Eagles-themed tweets rock

RCMP“She gets up and pours herself a strong one & stares out at the stars up in the sky – then takes a taxi because she doesn’t drive impaired.”

That’s just one of many tweets posted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Newfoundland (@RCMPNL) on July 13, when The Eagles were headlining at the annual Salmon Festival. An outdoor party featuring five big name bands is bound to attract an exuberant and boisterous crowd – some of whom might have their wits dipped in alcohol.

Rather than get all preachy-teachy on the subject of driving safely, the Mounties took their message – and a sense of humour – to Twitter. They cleverly wrapped their message in lyrics from Eagles hits. Here are just a few.

  • “Already Gone” to see the Eagles at the Salmon Festival? Traffic is heavy. Take your time. RCMP members are patrolling the TCH.  [Trans Canada Highway]
  • Keeping some “Fast Company” on your way to see The Eagles at Salmon Festival? RCMP members will be watching for speeders. Take your time.
  • It’s going to be a “Heartache Tonight” if the RCMP pulls you over for impaired driving at Salmon Festival. Designate a driver.
  • “You can’t hide your lyin’ eyes” If you’re driving impaired at Salmon Festival the RCMP will find you.
  • Jail is no “Hotel California” Enjoying Salmon Festival? Designate a driver, take a taxi or walk. Don’t drink& drive. (more…)

Lean Conversations 1: Can good communication reduce waste?

Lean Principles I’m getting lean. Alas, this is not about my body. It’s something I’ll call “lean communication.” I’m not about to preach on short sentences and plain words, though that can be part of it. I’m convinced that good communication reduces waste.

In manufacturing, the concept of “lean” describes practices that use fewer resources to provide greater value to customers. Anything customers don’t value enough to pay for is considered “waste,” something to eliminate. Lean practices originated in manufacturing in the 1940s, when Taiichi Ohno introduced them at Toyota. Over the years, they’ve been adopted and adapted in many contexts, including lean startups and lean software development.

When I look at the ideas I use with my communication coaching clients, I see a lot of overlap with lean principles, particularly those set out by the Lean Enterprise Institute. I’ve paraphrased them, but you can find the original version here.

1. Establish value from the customer’s perspective

This is my top tip for communication. I never tire of sharing it because it works so well. The audience for any communication might be considered your “customers.” The more you can make your communication about them and their needs, the more likely you are to be listened to, heard and understood. Whether you’re addressing one person or 100, in conversation, in presentations, in broadcast or in writing, you can almost never go wrong if you explain your point from the perspective of your audience. You make people care about your message by answering their question, “What’s in it for me?” (WIFM) That’s the value will it have for them. When you talk about anything they don’t value – no matter how much you love it – you waste your time and theirs. (more…)

Is a newsroom a good metaphor for an agile workplace?

News Microphone Computer Online PodcastWhen my professional communicator friends ask what I’m up to, I need to explain – non-techie to non-techie – what ‘agile’ means. I tell a story that goes something like this:

“Being agile is about business sustainability. It’s an approach to work that lets an organization respond to changes in its environment – customer needs, market fluctuations, new technology, competitor moves, resource constraints, whatever.”

Communicators get that. We pay attention to the business environment. We’re also familiar with change, since most of what we advise on or write about has something to do with something new.

It’s about change

“Since every part of the business uses computers, change can’t happen without systems changes. Even great communication can’t compensate for crappy tools. But developing systems can be slow and expensive and, sometimes, by the time you’re done, the target has moved and more changes are needed.”

Heads nod. Everyone’s witnessed this. (more…)

Changing the language of Change

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When it comes to organizational change it’s becoming clear that using the word “manage” is inappropriate. At least five significant industry surveys in recent history have validated the outcomes of less than 30 per cent of change initiatives met their goals. (For example: Creating organizational transitions, McKinsey Global Survey Results, McKinsey Quarterly, July 2008.)

Expecting to manage change rests on an assumption that the process is linear – cause and effect are clearly linked and predictable. Seldom, if ever, is this the case in dealing with groups of humans. As a result, the typical top-down, carrot-and-stick approach to invoking change hasn’t proven to be very successful.

Most change efforts I’ve witnessed and participated in have been long on motivational effort and short on specific activity that increases the ability of people in organizations to change. Generally people aren’t averse to the idea of change but don’t much like the feeling of being changed. I think using different language will help.

We need to be having conversations that promote change and discuss how we can best accommodate and respond to change. As important as these conversations are, actions speak louder than words. As change advocates (or agents) we need also to model the responses we strive for and demonstrate support for the type of changes underway.

It’s important for people enmeshed in organizational change to know why this is happening – otherwise how can one commit to the desired outcome(s)? It’s critical however that we know how to change.

We’ve been having success with evolutionary approaches to large scale organization change using a collection of tools and processes we call Lean Change. If you’d like to learn more simply contact Leanintuit.




IABC Canada Business Communicators Summit

Organizers of Trends 2013, the IABC Canada Business Communicators Summit, held November 1-3 in Ottawa, aimed to inspire communicators with ideas we could use in the immediate future, not some distant someday. That’s what they delivered. A look at tweets the conference inspired shows I’m not the only one who thought so. Epilogger #cdnIABC2012

The weekend was designed to provoke conversation. The opening night Silver Leaf Awards banquet had a “Mad Men” theme. Some folks thought it was hilarious. Others considered a look backwards to the world of “spin” a poor choice for celebrating the best in Canadian communication. Either way, it set us up for the weekend talking about branding and ethics and the changing face of our industry.

Fascinating keynote sessions . . .

Saturday’s mix of keynotes, panels and breakout sessions, began with a talk by Darrell Bricker, CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, specialists in social research and reputation. Anticipating dry pollster babble, the audience was surprised by a lively session in which Bricker used research data to show us how Canada is changing. As a group, we got every answer on his quiz wrong. We also discovered (or rediscovered) that numbers tell a story and research can be fun. We headed into the rest of the conference with the realization that many of the notions we hold – as communication professionals and as citizens – are out of date. What other “truths” might we need to give up?

IABC Newfoundland colleague Martha Muzychka shares her impressions and more details on Bricker’s talk in this excellent summary.

The second keynote of the day came from Jennifer Stoddart, Privacy Commissioner of Canada. She referred to a “tsunami of personal information” that has spawned a $30-billion industry to manage, use and protect it. Stoddart is determined that her organization make a difference. Its monitoring and investigations have forced Google, Veterans Affairs, Revenue Canada and many other organizations to change their practices after their actions brought protests from consumers and citizens.

What does privacy regulation mean for communicators? “Build privacy into the front end of every change. Don’t wait to be brought in to clean up,” says Stoddart. To help us, her department has a template for developing a privacy policy. (more…)

Why org charts can get in the way of change

The most common maps of enterprises are hierarchical “organizational charts”. We see them everywhere. We depend on them to illustrate the structural elements of an organization and identify the people working within them. Their underlying organizing principle is top-down granting of authority.

Getting work done in organizations depends on relationships that traverse these artificial boundaries. Collaboration and “cross-functional” teams are a necessary feature of organizational life.

“… understanding how networks work is an essential 21st century literacy.” — Howard Reingold

A critical element of successful communication is knowing your audience. If you need to communicate important information and you’re relying solely on the corporate hierarchy to cascade it from the top, with the attention it deserves, I’d urge you to reconsider. Working with key influencers to craft “viral” messages can have far greater impact. Critical change initiatives need support from critical people. If you can’t identify them you’re flying blind.

The map is not the territory

Head buried in the org chart If you think your organizational chart represents the relationships that get work done you need to pull your head out the sand (or the chart).

It’s amazing how much attention is paid to the hierarchy documented in the organizational chart. All of us, when asked, will freely admit that the relationships required to get work done are not illustrated by an org chart.

The reality of the modern organization is that it’s a network. It is the sum of social and working relationships that traverse both organizational silos and levels. The “old boys’ club”, the grapevine, even the smoker’s huddle indicate networks that use informal paths of communication to share trust, knowledge and support.

Organizational Network Analysis

Adopting a network view Organization as network is much more useful when it comes to understanding connections between people in organizations. We’re social and form relationships of commitment and trust we need to achieve both personal and corporate goals. This mesh of personal interaction isn’t revealed by an organizational chart but exists nonetheless.

Working with key or central people within these networks can amplify communication efforts, accelerate change and identify opportunities to promote development. If only we could identify them.

Making invisible connections visible

Tools and processes to do just that are readily available – Organizational Network Analysis or ONA. This type of analysis isn’t a new idea. It’s been used since the 1950s. Pioneers and advocates in the field like Valdis Krebs , Rob Cross and Patti Anklam, among others, have a significant body of experience in making invisible organizational links visible. Growing awareness and analysis of network dynamics has been sparked by internet communities like Facebook and LinkedIn. In parallel, Organizational Network Analysis adoption is finding new advocates. And new providers of tools, analytic software and services like Netview and Keyhubs are emerging.

This is an important and useful tool to consider when thinking about how to make your organizational development or communication initiatives work best.