It’s the Million Dollar Question. Potentially. Or maybe a multi-million dollar one, come to think of it.
Poor quality costs. A lot.
So how can we improve our communication to limit the cost of poor quality?
I guess that’s really the question.
That depends. There are lots of different ways to communicate poorly.
It could be a simple matter of miscommunication. Is your quality team just not sharing the right information? Is it a problem with the Quality team not fully understanding how Quality impacts the other parts of the organization? Are they simply not doing a good job of explaining “all things Quality” to the others? And as a result of this miscommunication, do people just not “get it”?
Or maybe it’s more of a misunderstanding. Maybe the Quality team is totally competent, but things got lost in translation. What they wrote or said, has not been interpreted the way they intended. Maybe they thought they explained things clearly, but it was clear only to them. And not to the people they were talking to, training, or writing to. Hmmmm.
Could it be due to not communicating at all? That’s possible. This happens in some marriages. Communication just sort of fizzles out. Is information just not being shared? Are people just unaware? Untrained? Out of the loop?
Or is information being withheld? Is it possible that the Quality team didn’t realize certain information would be important to another team and so they simple didn’t mention it? Were they too busy to take the time? It could happen, right? Or…eek…maybe someone is withholding information on purpose. Hopefully this is not the case, but in organizations that don’t have strong cultures and tight teams, this is entirely possible.
Is language or culture a factor? Or gender? Or technology? It might be. We can’t rule any of these things out. We need to think about all of it.
We need to think about the root cause of the problem. We need to think about what we’re doing wrong – in terms of our communication – that leads to booboos. Or that leads to extra spending. Or loss. Re-work. Headaches. Recalls. Disagreements. Lost contracts. Failed audits.
Once we know where the problem originates, only THEN can we start thinking about how to fix it.
If it’s a matter of miscommunication. What should we do?
I’d suggest having a close look at your Quality team and make sure they know what they’re doing. If we don’t understand something, it’s impossible to explain it to someone else. Find the gaps in their knowledge and do what you have to do to provide the support to fill those gaps.
What if it’s because of misunderstandings? How do we fix this?
This comes down to helping people improve skills like listening and empathy and speaking and writing. If communication is poor because the message being received isn’t the message being sent, the fault lies in the sender. The sender doesn’t understand what the receiver needs. The sender either hasn’t figured out what she wants to say; or doesn’t understand the listener (or reader); or doesn’t have enough skill with the language to put her thoughts into words that are easy to understand. Communication skills training could help. And training on how to write clearly.
If it’s a matter of no communication at all, think about why that could be happening. Does everyone think they’re working in isolation and their work has no impact on other functions? Is there some weird politics at the organization and certain people or teams just don’t get along well…and so don’t talk? Do some functions think they’re superior to others and “don’t bother” engaging with those “below” them?
Is there a failure to recognize that everyone is part of the same team? The same organization? With the same goals? Maybe it’s time for some team building. Maybe it’s time to bring everyone together. If this is the root, if you don’t invest in some initiatives like this, you’ll continue to put the success of your entire company in jeopardy.
And what do we do if information is being withheld? Well, I’d say that it’s probably a function of a lack of awareness on the part of the sender (or not sender, in this case). Somehow the person who should have shared information didn’t realize he should have. So does this person need some help understanding the organizational structure?
And if this withholding was intentional. What do we do? I’d focus on building a culture. A strong culture based on shared values and a shared mission. Making everyone feel like they’re valuable and part of the big picture.
But how? Build trust.
But how? One conversation at a time. One person at a time. One day at a time. One meeting at a time. One phone call at a time. One situation at a time.
It takes time.
Oh…and once more, you need good communication skills to have all of these little, ongoing conversations.
There’s no way around it. Communication – good or bad – can make or break your organization.
This is one of those blogs where I’ve asked more questions than I’ve answered. But that was my goal.
I want you to think about why things play out the way they do at your organization. So you can figure out what to do about it.
We can’t control our top management. But we do have a lot more impact and power than we let ourselves believe. Even if you’re not the manager of your team, your behaviour can absolutely impact your team – for better or for worse.
If you don’t believe that, then ask any athlete who wasn’t picked as the captain of their team. Did that stop them from leading? Absolutely not. You don’t need a big fancy title to have permission to lead.
Get the training. Take the initiative. Learn what you need to learn. Help whoever needs to be helped. We each have the power to make a difference in our organizations.
Thanks for reading!
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