Fast and Effective Communication
by Tilo Schwarz
Hi 21st Century Leaders,
The COVID-19 situation reminds me of the time a factory burned down at one of our main suppliers, who produced parts for nearly every one of our products. I was the plant manager. Within 42 hours our production lines, and our whole factory, came to a stop. We jumped into crisis mode, but I soon discovered two problems:
Our morning meetings took too long. We needed time to work on problems, not just for discussing them!
People were waiting for our morning meeting for decisions to be taken, rather than deciding themselves. Ouch!
As I got more and more worried I pulled two of my department managers aside to asses the situation as well as get their feedback on my own approach. Here is what we learned. Our all-hands meetings were taking so long because we were discussing problems in detail and trying to problem-solve in the meeting. All-hands meetings should be focused on aligning the team regarding what we need to do next as well as establishing a common understanding of the current situation which might change every day, maybe even on an hourly basis. A major trap in a crisis situation is to start micromanaging. That takes away the initiative from people and dramatically slows down the problem-solving process. Sound familiar?
A Starter Kata for more effective communication:
Have a very short daily all-hands, best in the morning, to align the team, set the targets for the day and identify who needs help. Refrain from problem-solving in the all-hands.
Instead, establish short, frequent interactions, one on one or in small groups for problem-solving.
Use The Five Questions* to structure your daily all-hands meeting
See you next time and as always, focus on people and foster scientific thinking to enable your people to achieve great things together.
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*The Five Questions are based on the Coaching Kata, a simple and powerful routine for teaching your people how to navigate unknown territory with a scientific approach. Details are in the Toyota Kata Practice Guide.
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