Internal communication is key….
We had a senior management team away-day last week and one of the things we considered was how, in these times of budget cuts, we could demonstrate our value to the organisation.
Overall, we felt that our communications could be improved, so we did quite a lot of work on designing an IT Bulletin, looking at our area on the intranet and making a point to communicate our successes much more effectively.
I do think that that last area is one that could be improved in IT generally; there’s a tendency, once a project is completed, to move on to the next one, rather than stop and think about what benefits have (and will continue) to accrue. Apart from being good practice anyway, it provides a really good opportunity to promote the work that’s been delivered.
I was keen to find out from the team what thought we change behaviourally to improve our standing. Dress code, punctuality and following up on promises were all things that were mentioned, but we pretty much do those things already. Then we started talking about language; using business-speak rather than techno-speak, and making sure that we always make a reference to business outcomes.
Another idea that we had relates to how we talk about each other to external stakeholders. We thought that it would be really good to use this as an opportunity to enhance each other’s reputation.
So, instead of saying “I’ll ask Sean to look at that”, we should say “Sean’s our top technical guy; he’ll have that sorted in no time”. Another example might be “Lucy should be dealing with that”, replaced with “I know that Lucy has made some good progress on that. I’ll ask her to update you this afternoon”.
How much better does the second version sound? It instils confidence in the user (many of whom are nervous about IT anyway) and it creates a positive impression from the outset.
We agreed to do this for all members of the IT Department in future, not just our individual teams, and to not overdo it; gushing praise would probably just freak people out!
There are occasions when people do mess up, and this often causes internal friction.
While this needs to be managed, it’s vitally important that we keep this to ourselves, and never complain about another team to the users. They don’t care about our internal structure and the impression they take away is “Someone from IT is complaining that the IT service is rubbish”.
So from now on, we’re going to be positive. I suspect that it may take a while for the benefits of this approach to be felt, but I am certain if we stick to it, it will make a difference to how we’re perceived both collectively and individually.