To say that the way we communicate in business today is undergoing major changes would be a wildly profound understatement. Many businesses simply feel overwhelmed by the advances of Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace, not to mention the near total penetration of mobile devices like the iPhone and BlackBerry. The simple email and conference call, once the de facto standards, are now just two of the numerous tools in a crowded communications toolbox. Are these new tools bad, making effective business communication and Execution Rhythm impossible? No, like any multi-faceted business process, they must be applied as proper leverage points toward one thing, the achievement of the highly focused future picture of your business.
The Breakdown in Effective Business Communication
For the past two years, according to the renowned Conference Board’s Annual Survey of Worldwide CEOs, execution-related challenges rank as the top two concerns that keep business leaders awake at night. That seems counter-intuitive when the communications and information revolution has brought people “together” via a vast array of electronic tools. Could it be the more we text and chat, the more execution-related problems our operations develop? Well, maybe, but I think the problem is not how we are communicating, it’s more the lack of effective business communication stemming from our expectations and demands on technology.
In this economy, most businesses have experienced deep reductions in travel budgets. In many cases, travel has been almost eliminated all together. Quite frankly, it’s some of the advances in technological business communication that are making the difference between red and black ink on a great number of balance sheets. But like any tool, if you try to use a dental pick to dig a tunnel, it’s not the dental pick’s fault.
Using Communication Tools Found in Execution Rhythm to Close Gaps
Breakdowns in effective business communication usually manifest themselves as Execution Gaps. An Execution Gap is defined as the delta between the target your team planned to hit and where the dart actually landed. How do we use effective business communication to close this gap? The answer is “Execution Rhythm,” a concept adapted from military operations called “Battle Rhythm.” After an action plan has been determined with clear who does what by when, it is vital that an Execution Rhythm is established. This rhythm is created by holding a cascading series of meetings to determine one thing: Are we on track or not? If not, what can the entire team do to close the current gap? In each of the cascading meetings approaching the deadline, the gaps are tightened and the lessons learned in each of the preceding meetings are used to help shrink the gap. Now, can the new technology found in these effective business communication tools be employed to close these gaps? Certainly! The delay of a key component delivered by a supporting team, for example, may be communicated quickly via text before entering that week’s Execution Gap meeting. That information can then be shared and addressed instantly within that meeting to negate the potential negative effects on the project’s timeline. This is information that can’t wait for an email, memo or next week’s multi-department meeting.
Effective Business Communication Is Not the “How;” It Is the “Why” and the “When”
The tempo of Execution Rhythm may be daily, weekly, monthly or a combination of the three. Execution Rhythm should develop its structure around a regular cycle of planning, briefing, executing and debriefing, again with one goal, to close that execution gap and push the team toward the future picture. This may happen on a phone bridge, video conference or in the good old conference room. The non-negotiable aspects of Execution Rhythm are that the team be focused on using lessons learned from previous meetings and new data to equip each member of the team with the resources they need to hit the mark. An email detailing the meeting’s action steps may be distributed to the whole team after the meeting. A Twitter post may keep key members of the team updated on a daily goal or special initiative. These effective business communication tools can all be very helpful, but the team must be using them to create a successful Execution Rhythm around your initiatives. As Gen X and Gen Y are not only a part of all business environments, but are absolutely pivotal in most enterprises, always ask yourself what new forms of effective business communication may help those team members close their Execution Gaps.