Speed and access matter, whether you're streaming on Netflix or conducting daily business in your office. Like many of you, I've watched the Net Neutrality debate with great interest. The idea of big players paying for special access ruffles my entrepreneurial feathers, to say the least, and it got me to thinking about the flow of information within my own company.
It really bothered me yesterday was when two separate employees needed information from me, but felt they needed to ask someone else to ask me, rather than ask me directly. That's inefficient communication -- and totally my fault.
Breaking Down Barriers
Do you have a lack of Information Neutrality right underneath your nose? How filtered is the information you receive, and how fast do you get it? And is that information only getting to you from certain people, eliminating what could be valuable diversity of perspectives?
Here are 5 strategies for making sure everyone gets what information they need so quick decisions can be made. Note to those of you who need 100 percent of the facts before making decisions: you'll never get it and often will miss opportunities while waiting for it. Get on with it!
1. Randomly attend department meetings.
You'll learn what's being prioritized, sure. But also watch interactions to see if people are speaking up and debating, or just agreeing with their supervisor. See whether managers are seeking input by asking questions, coaching, and by not making declarations.
2. Walk around asking questions.
Andy Grove, the CEO of Intel, wrote in High Output Management that "information-gathering is the basis of all other managerial work." We all know that it's essential to be seen, but your "Management by (Simply) Walking Around" isn't enough. Make your strolls valuable by asking two basic questions: What's working? What's not working? This will be the fastest way to acquire information before problems arise. But be wary that it might be incomplete, and keep asking questions from other sources before making conclusions.
3. Get regular reports.
We all get reports on sales, process, and variances, and they form benchmarks for recognizing trends and making decisions. Recognize that the preparer and even you have confirmation bias that might skew the report itself and your conclusions from it. Constantly test a report's validity.
4. Hold one-to-one meetings.
Regularly schedule time with your direct reports, and ensure that your direct reports are doing the same with theirs. Ask questions and learn what's getting in their way and how you can help. If you think you don't have time for monthly meetings, or don't need them because you bump into your staff often, you're missing the point. These are not operational meetings so much as they are meant to understand the feelings and thinking of your folks. These types of discussions rarely happen without setting aside uninterrupted time.
5. Keep your organization flat.
Hierarchies are anathema to streamlined information. By the time information reaches you it might be too late. Make sure people are comfortable going straight to the top.