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  • Writer's pictureTilo Schwarz

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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