Tuesday, 13 October 2009

The thorny issue of internal communication

As part of our programme of staff development we've introduced a Management Development programme which we're cascading down the department, based on the premise that many people find themselves managers of staff often as a result of regrading or job changes, and yet have had little training. And those of us who've had staff management responsibilities for longer than we care to remember know that running an entire IT infrastructure is a piece of cake compared to dealing with staffing issues! Over the summer our "middle managers" - sorry, can't think of a better name for them - had 3 full days of tailored training, and as part of that they were to report back to their managers ( Section Heads) on issues. This they have done, and I had an interesting hour this morning going through some of the issues raised (as I couldn't be at the original feedback session).

One of the issues we discussed at length was communication and how that can be improved - always an issue in any large organisation and one that seems so difficult to get right, especially as we all prefer different styles and ways of communicating. We touched on how best to use technology especially Web 2.0 stuff - one of the things that came up which I find fascinating is the overlap between work and non work and how that is managed. I try and keep this blog work related (although it was pointed out to me this morning that the occasional morris dancer does crop up in it). That can be difficult, and there are lots of things I'd like to write about which aren't to do with work, so I have another blog set up and ready to go which would be a more personal one. I say set up and ready to go - it's been there 2 years and I've never posted anything in it. Worried that I think I wouldn't have the time to keep it going maybe? And to a certain extent it's been overtaken by Twitter. I have a very different rule for Twitter than for this blog, and it does combine work and social posts. I'm just as likely to tell you what I'm eating or what music I'm listening to, or how cold I am in my tent, than what I'm doing at work. That's what I like about Twitter, and why I try and follow people who do the same - I like knowing about people generally, and build up a much better picture of them if aspects of their life other than work are included. It's an interesting topic, and one which I'm sure we'll return to.

So, we had lots of positive discussion about tools such as blogs and twitter and how they could be used in the department. It was pointed out that after 2 years and usually very positive feedback, I'm still the only senior management person in the department using a blog to communicate. Perhaps that will change now we have our own blogging environment uSpace. To try and address the issue of information flow we have just set up a new area in uSpace where we are going to experiment with a communal executive blog to record our meetings and decisions taken, and we're hoping that all of our teams will do the same. It will be an interesting experiment.

And finally on communication, something that makes me cross is people who don't make an effort to find our what's going on, but sit back and expect the information to be spoon fed to them. We are a University after all and a certain amount of proactivity is expected. Despite all of the technology we have at our disposal, nothing beats getting up off your chair, walking into someone's office and actually talking to them face to face!


Graham Hill said...

Last para - so true!

Anonymous said...

One of the best resources to keep in touch with what is happening is the electronic diary ‘Corporate Time’. This keeps you up to speed on all sorts of developments and events. You can be hampered on occasions when people lock all their meetings from other staff, but in the main, staff do have some good transparency practices that keep this tool useful in so many ways. You can even use it to see if the person you want to chat with (face to face) is actually in the institution!