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Mihalicz_Work Flowing Down

In almost every organization, there’s a common theme: communication is less than stellar. That means people are not getting the information they need to make the best decisions regarding the work they need to do. Unfortunately, without the right system in place, decisions are made yielding work that is wrong, duplicated or not delivered in the right timeframe.

The bottom line? Communication in all organizations is really about getting the right information to the right person at the right time.

Information Must Be Filtered To Be Useful

Most organizations realize that communication is a problem and needs to be improved. Various approaches are employed, such as town hall meetings, newsletters or “management by walking around”. While these are important strategies in their own right, on their own they fail because the same information is given to everyone and most people lack the capability to sift through and identify what is relevant to them. Ensuring the right information gets to the right people in a timely and efficient way requires putting a system in place, where decisions that were made higher up can be filtered and communicated down on a one-to-one basis from managers to their direct reports. This is a key accountability of each manager.

The message delivered to the VP from the CEO is not the same as the message that needs to go to each manager at different levels in the organization. By using their own filters and capabilities, managers can decide what is important for their direct reports to know, how and when to best communicate, and then delegate effectively.

Establishing Accountability and Authority Frameworks

By establishing accountability and authority frameworks for how work flows down the organization, the CEO helps each manager understand what their role is, what they are accountable for and what resources they have available to them. The right framework also provides measures for quality, quantity, timeliness and available resources, so managers know what authority they have to do the work. They can then use that information to take initiative and make decisions that move the organization forward.

Finding Balance

Accountability and authority frameworks have been given a bad rap in the modern organization, because “self-managed teams” and “empowerment” do not fit with what is often misinterpreted as “bureaucratic” or “command and control” initiatives. We all know these strategies are inappropriate for the fast moving pace of the 21st century organization. However, frameworks for delegating work are critically important. Unless there is a commonly understood way to delegate work down the organization, people will flounder, failing to focus on the right work. On the other hand, if everyone is told exactly what to do at every step, the result is no less dysfunctional, and incredibly inefficient!

The challenge for today’s CEO is in finding a happy medium: providing appropriate frameworks so that when managers do take initiative and use their judgment in an empowered way, they do it within context, with outcomes that are in line with expectations. The CEO must go against the grain of popular thinking to put a system in place that outlines and identifies the basic accountability and authority each manager needs to appropriately guide decision making throughout the organization.