Sunday, 22 May 2011

Admin Lessons - Communication

I work as a Church Administrator which means I have a wide range of roles that I oversee.  One of the areas I am responsible for is communication.

Communication in any organisation (or indeed in any relationship) can always be improved, in fact most of the time the communication we do is purely information transfer - sending out details of what is going to happen with the hope that if we say it enough times and in enough different ways it will be absorbed and understood.

This is the reality of organisational communication.  Occasionally we review, reflect and ask people how we are doing, for those of you reading this who are part of my church why don't you tell me what you think - click here for a quick survey - but read the rest of this post first!

When I look at communication and the process of communication for an organisation I find Kipling's six honest men helpful,
"I KEEP six honest serving-men (They taught me all I knew)
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who."

1. Why communicate?
At its simplest level people need to know what's going on and so we need to tell people!
But more fundamentally in an organisation communication should help to serve the vision. Great leadership provides a compelling and well communicated vision which can be easily grasped and connected to the everyday activities which help move the organisation towards achieving that vision.

2. Where do you communicate? and...
3. How do you communicate?
These two questions refer to the channels of communication that are employed.
This simple answer to this should be - in as many places and using as many methods as possible, the following diagram tries to sum up the main methods that we use in our church.
(The size of each items is my guess at how effective each method is in terms of reach and usefulness)

4. Who communicates?
The really short answer is Me (see the first paragraph)! In reality everybody on staff and in leadership in our church is involved in one way or another in the communication process.
But even wider than that everybody in the whole organisation in involved in communication, they may not generate the initial communication but when they recieve it they can pass it on. If we fall into a culture of not telling people news we think they may need to know then we are not really looking out for each other. This will never be a primary means of communication rather a safety net provided by our mutual community.

5. When to communicate?
Different situations demand different timescales but the further ahead you can communicate is usually the better.
It is good to be able to plan to communicate, that is having thought out what you want to do then have the time to think about how and when you need to communicate this. More often than not communication has to happen immediately because the situation hasn’t been planned out in advance. Sometimes we have to react to a situation - a bereavement, a sudden opportunity or a cancellation – but more often than not we could have foreseen these events but we have failed to allow ourselves the time necessary to plan not only the event but the communication of the event. Planning is another key element to great leadership which moves an organisation towards its vision – my next article on Admin Lessons will be on planning.

6. What to communicate?
This in a lot of ways is the most important question. You can have all the above perfect but if your content is poorly formulated, full of errors or just difficult to understand then you are probably wasting your time. We need to put ourselves in the place of the person who is reading or hearing our message for the first time. I may have worked on this idea or message for days, weeks or even months so I know exactly what I am talking about but will the person who is hearing it understand or will they be left with a series of questions?

Whenever I produce anything to send out to people I give it to someone else with the question “Does this make sense?” because if it doesn’t I have failed.

So could I and my organisation do better at communication? The answer is YES. I know that we can do better but I also know that I have improved over the years.

What about your communication, what are your areas of weakness? Take a look at the following questions and hopefully they will help point out where you need to work on to really improve your communication.

Why? Is the importance of communication clear and at the top of the list?

Where & How? Are there some new channels of communication you need to develop? Are there some existing ones that need to be revamped or stopped?

Who? What is your flow of communication like? Is there a clear process and system? Do people share news and information with one another?

When? How well are you planning your communication? Esp. For major changes or events do you have time to think what you need to communicate and to be able to develop it with plenty of time before it is needed?

What? Is what you produce any good? How would you know? Do you have someone who has real skill and talent in writing\communication to review your work, esp. before you issue it? For major changes or events do you review your communication with someone who is not involved in the situation to check it “makes sense”?

And don't forget to let me know what you think of our communication in the Community Church, click here to go to the survey.

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