Staying in Touch While Staying Productive
When frequent travel and irregular hours began getting in the way of effective communication, CRC used SEE to address their new normal.
The Community Resource Center (CRC) found that their quick growth, irregular working hours, and frequent travel were damaging group communication. More meetings were scheduled to compensate and stay in touch, but these provided too little content to be beneficial. CRC used SEE to develop a unique approach that struck a balance between communicating and working.
Thinking with SEE
CRC recognized that the poor communication was generating considerable confusion and disorganization for everyone, making model building difficult but also making employees less effective because they had to put more directed attention into communicating than working.
The Small Experiment
CRC decided to make Monday an all-meeting day, starting with a brief huddle of the entire staff. At the huddle everyone is encouraged to share what is going on outside of work and how their projects are going, then collectively focus their energy for the upcoming week. The rest of the day is devoted to one-on-one or small group meetings wherein specific project teams can meet, staff can have facetime with managers, etc.
The staff found the Monday schedule to be a great improvement over the previous meeting system. They enjoyed having a whole day devoted to getting updated and exchanging information. Having a moment, the huddle, to acknowledge what was going on outside of work in everyone’s lives provided perspective on what might reduce staff members’ effectiveness in the workplace. The structuring of all the meetings on one day dramatically improved communication; it also made the workplace far more organized by consolidating information and improving model building. Lastly, the staff found that having one-on-one check-ins with coworkers and supervisors enhanced meaningful action because it blocked out time for people to be listened to and acknowledged.
Experiment for Yourself
Communication is a complex problem that is different for each organization, as well as within organizations. While generic solutions may not work, it can be helpful to try out a variety of approaches. As such, here are some suggestions:
- Consolidate meetings into a set, consistent time each week(it doesn’t have to take up a whole day). This does not mean the rest of the week must be meeting-free, but it does ensure the opportunity to exchange information face-to-face.
- Devote a brief period of time each week for people to share whatever they are comfortable with about their outside lives. Acknowledge their input, good or bad, make sure they feel respected, and recognize where else their energy and directed attention needs to go (e.g. dentist appointment, a soccer tournament, etc).
- Most importantly, regardless of what decision you make, gather feedback from staff as to whether the changes are working, and try other strategies if they are not.