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Badconsultant has been doing some work recently on communications strategies – assessing, categorizing, measuring, quantifying

[charging]

and describing. We do it very well.

As ever, what we’re listening for more than anything is

[the jingling of the corporate pocket]

deep causal factors underlying the symptoms we’re often hired to treat. You know, like when you’re hired because sickness absence is going through the roof in one particular business unit (“please assess how to maintain productivity”) – but when you get there, you find that some sub-Hitler lowlife manager could hardly be more totalitarian if he actually shackled the workers to the machines. Sickness absence? Try damage avoidance…

So. Communications strategies. And particularly a statement of work to “assess effectiveness of executive communications in ensuring colleague connection to the mission of <xxxx>” Yes, we ran the obligatory survey, focus groups and executive interviews. We listened, we nodded thoughtfully, we stroked our chin and mm-hmmmed in all the right places. All the time, thinking we’ve heard this before somewhere.

And slowly, oh so slowly, dying inside.

Yet, a glimmer of hope. The fact is that the communications appeared to be getting through. Or maybe that should be that the messages had been heard. Yet we found cynicism, disbelief and flat out refusal to accept that senior leaders had ANY part of making that happen.

And we began to hear a familiar drumbeat.

[cue politically incorrect metaphor]

Jungle drums.

[and another]

Smoke signals.

[and another]

Judy Garland wails like an aboriginal jellyfish on steroids.

[all right, that was just to keep you awake]

Our point is this. Somehow in the past thirty years, a significant chunk of our executive populations and, worse, our communication professionals haven’t quite woken up to the reality of what is happening in the world. Executives and communications professionals who still appear to believe that the memo from the senior guy’s (let’s not pretend it would be gal’s) desk, cascaded downward through the many layers of huddled middle managers

[trying to avoid the next swinging axe from those superiors whose memo is presented as the 10 Commandments]

to the masses, is the single best way to make sure people know what’s happening.

Listen… Carefully… That works in an organization of 20 people. It may even work all the way up to an organization of 150 people (and if you don’t know why that number is magic, drop us a line and we will reset your levels). But here are some clues as to what is working for MILLIONS of people.

  • MySpace
  • YouTube
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • SecondLife

Need we go on. We’re talking about web 2.0 communication technologies

[whose designers forgot that there is a thing called a space bar]

and the fact that they are revolutionizing the world of interoffice communication.

Power used to be in the hands of the sender. Power used to be in with-holding information until you were ready to unleash the bad news. Power used to come from starving the masses. And all the time, understanding that the grapevine was an unavoidable annoyance to be tolerated rather than stamped out. Now, the jungle drums, smoke signals and Judy Garland circulate about the office at the speed of fibre optics, while the executive scratches his ass and communication professionals scramble to redraft the memo based on latest political correctness filters to ensure the message is written just the right way to successfully inform the majority of the population of the particular change in strategic direction while…

Enough. Just mention it in passing to the local social guru and tell them they can’t tell anyone. Then, accidentally point out that they definitely should not use the in-house blog/discussion board mechanism.

The next time you want to announce some second rate executive replacement or shuffling (you know, the sort of change that is so far from being a material impact/SEC filing issue that you might as well film it and put it on YouTube), why don’t you… Well… Put it on YouTube.

Your people – who are inordinately more connected, interested and energetic than any executive or communication professional – will do the rest.

Au revoir,

BC