What You Count Counts

When the internal communication leader asked me how he should measure his team’s effectiveness, my answer was met with a quizzical look.

I told him there are many sound ways to measure communication, but one of the most value-adding is how well it helps the organization as a whole. When communication is managed to improve results and the cost to improve is smaller than the improvement you’ve made, you’ve likely added value. counting image 1 - What You Count Counts

If, for instance, an organization’s financial performance is driven by a superior customer experience, and on-time delivery is critical to delivering a superior customer experience, then one measure of communication effectiveness might be how well it improves on-time delivery by reducing or eliminating communication breakdowns.

My internal communication friend asked me to give him an example of an organization that has taken a more business-like approach to communication management. I pointed to a Denver-based technology company that we helped improve sales force productivity, which the company estimated to be $90 million below the industry average.

We began by gathering data around the reasons for the productivity shortfall. The information identified a bundle of reasons, most of which were related to the way communication was and wasn’t managed.

For instance, marketing and sales people told us they were frustrated because a lack of information and conflicting information reduced sales and increased sales costs and cycle time. Organizational silos made it difficult for people to communicate with each other across the organization.

Customers told us they heard about new product launches and product features and benefits before the company’s sales and marketing people heard about them. When customers asked the sales and marketing people about the new products, they were met with blank stares rather than useful information.

People involved with the product launch process said it generated a lot of inconsistent, disconnected and uncoordinated information. This chewed up their time trying to sort out what was accurate and what was rumor.

We convened sales, marketing and internal communication folks for a two-day planning session. We identified root causes of the communication breakdowns, then developed and implemented a comprehensive plan to improve sales force productivity by eliminating the communication defects that were hurting sales force productivity.

Within months the sales force productivity gap was nearly wiped out. The cost to reduce the gap was significantly lower than the gain made by increasing productivity.  So, we generated a healthy ROI.

Communication breakdowns are often the cause of under-performance. Breakdowns include mixed messages, slow moving, inaccurate and missing information.

  • Reducing them is straightforward
  • Assess the nature and size of the problem
  • Identify the root causes
  • Create and implement a plan to remove the root causes
  • Measure, celebrate and continuously improve.Counts graphic 1024x178 - What You Count Counts

Key Takeaway: Managing communication is sometimes thought to be just about circulating newsletters, distributing pretty infographics and tweeting. But there’s a much larger operational role it can play by managing communication that affects business results.

4 Comments

  1. Jim–as usual you hit the nail on the head:
    “Managing communication is sometimes thought to be just about circulating newsletters, distributing pretty infographics and tweeting. But there’s a much larger operational role it can play by managing communication that affects business results.”

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