Client Story: Utility – Communication
The Managing Director (MD) in one of our clients in the utility sector said his organisation was under performing against industry profit benchmarks.
The MD said the reasons for this were:
- Formal and informal communications had earned a bad “one-way” top down reputation:
- Managers ignored the negative impact one way directive communication had on morale, staff turnover, productivity and profit;
- The one-way culture rarely accomplished consistent follow through on agreed actions and projects missed deadlines;
- The one way communication path hid problems until they were impossible to disguise. When problems came to his attention they were bigger, more costly and took longer to resolve than if he’d been told early. The result was often reactive rather than proactive leadership;
- His management spent 80% of their time attending formal and informal meetings and more than half of that time was wasted:
- Manager productivity was low because discussions and meetings often slipped off track, moved off agenda, and got bogged down in time wasting irrelevant issues and detail;
- Most of his managers and staff failed to consider the negative impact meetings had on the organisation’s bottom line. So they said, “There’s hardly enough time in a day to complete basic tasks – so who has the time or energy to commit to improving meetings?”;
- Meeting attendance and punctuality were poor. Meeting participants had little buy-in to the items under discussion or the goals being sought. Follow through on agreed actions failed to occur because attendees did not buy-in, and leaders did not detect this.
The MD said the capabilities he needed to address his business issue were:
- When anyone in the organisation had a problem, needed help, or had a task delegated to them that his “open door policy” would live through a new culture where anyone (independent of position) had the right to ask questions and make challenges using agreed “rules of engagement” in order to understand objectives, intentions, and facts that would help them intelligently and productively participate in and align themselves with the company goals and activities:
- The “rules” would check for alignment between the corporate goals and strategies and the intention and outcome for the decision or action being discussed. All communication would be conducted within such an “outcome frame”;
- The “rules” would help managers and staff to know they were getting genuine agreement. And if managers did not calibrate audience buy-in they would have a process to lead to it – ensuring follow through on actions, increasing the speed of change and increasing employee engagement;
- When gathering information, his managers would have “questioning rules” to get the right information quickly to the level of detail required for the situation to increasing fact based decisions and improve productivity.
- Managers and staff would spend less time in meetings. And when his managers would lead or participate in a meeting:
- They would have an effective meeting process to follow and communication skills to support the process. He wanted the process and skills to contain the things that he wanted for every other communication in the company;
- They would be able to get and manage punctual attendance and productive use of time;
- When someone went off topic anyone could use the “rules” to quickly get back on track or be able to reveal the hidden relevance in the off topic discussion – increasing meeting productivity;
- When a manager was leading a meeting would be able to read the subtle non-spoken cues in attendee’s behaviour and know how to use that to evaluate whether they were getting understanding, genuine agreement and buy-in – and if not they would have a means to work quickly towards it.
The GM said that with these capabilities, communications and meetings would be an enjoyable productive use of time. These capabilities would align staff activity with corporate goals and increase productivity. With these “rules of engagement” he could get his team and himself free of operational drama in order to address the performance improvement initiatives he wanted to embrace.
Onirik helped them develop these capabilities.
- Meetings become more effective – reducing in duration by 45% and number by 30% so on average, managers liberated more than 20% of their week;
- The GM got his team to use the liberated time to address several performance improvement initiatives;
- The difference in the appropriate staff participation and enthusiasm was enormous.
Within four months profits increased by 2% and within nine months by 8%. The payback was less than three months and the ROI was over 400%.
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