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IDEAS FOR LEADERS: Communication Strategies, Systems, and Skills

by Jerry Tarasofsky September 4, 2012

An original post By Jim Clemmer

“Before you say what you think, be sure you have.” — Malcolm Forbes, past publisher of Forbes magazine

Communication is both a symptom and a cause of organization performance problems. Over the years, we’ve heard hundreds of managers use communication as a vague catchall for every type of organization and team problem imaginable. Generally, the root cause of many “communication problems” was deeper than that.

Poorly designed organizations, ineffective processes, bureaucratic systems, unaligned rewards, unclear customer/partner focus, fuzzy visions, values, and purpose, unskilled team leaders and members, cluttered goals and priorities, low trust levels, and weak measurements and feedback loops all cause communication problems. Whenever a manager contacts us to solve a “communication problem,” we always know we have some digging to do.

Communication strategies, systems, and practices do play a central role in high-performance. Information, understanding, and knowledge are the lifeblood of the organizational body. A thoughtful and comprehensive communication strategy is a vital component to any successful change and improvement. The education and communication strategy sets the tone and direction of improvement efforts.

Education and communication strategies influence the energy levels for change and improvement. Strong communications keep everyone focussed on goals and priorities while providing feedback on progress and the course corrections needed. Effective communication strategies, systems, and practices have a huge and direct effect on organization learning and innovation.

Effective communication strategies, systems, and practices:

  • Deliver clear and consistent messages to all parts of the organization
  • Are simple, direct, and fast with a minimal number of filters and interpreters
  • Inspire and energize
  • Are user-friendly, human, and personal
  • Move information, experiences, learning, ideas, direction, and feedback equally well in all directions — up, down, and across the organization
  • Provide multiple channels
  • Are only possible in an atmosphere of trust and openness

Despite all their talk about communications, many managers don’t appreciate the highly strategic role communication plays in their improvement efforts. Consequently, they don’t spend enough time thinking through what they want to say and the best ways to say it. But the amount and type of communicating we do speak volumes about how much we trust people and whether we see people as partners or “subordinates” who “work for me.”

Our communication strategies, systems, and practices set the dimensions of the environment we are putting people in.


The Organization Optimizer listens to the key stakeholders in an organization and provides the opportunity to effectively communicate issues that are important to its success.