15 January 2015

Making Progress with Strategic Communication

My first discussion post for Strategic Communication class asked how we viewed communications in the past and to reflect upon the materials provided by our instructor. Which perspective did we find most helpful to our understanding of strategic communication? You all know me. I can't resist using personal experience in any challenge. This is about progress, so why not?

When Hatch (2013) mentions Malinowski’s photograph of the anthropologist observed by the natives (p. 39) it struck me as funny and reminded me of another photograph I had found years ago. In my photo, one guy is digging a hole. Joe, according to his name tag, is surrounded by several folks with similar name tags, only each of the observers has a title rather than a name, with “manager” on the end of their titles or “lead” at the front: Operations Manager, Lead Technician, Total Quality Manager, Facilities Manager, Heavy Equipment Manager, Lead Gopher, etc. all surrounding, watching, and pointing at Joe, the hole digger. Ironic? How many managers does it take to dig a hole? Zero. Just hire Joe.

This guy has no name.

I think I’ve been kicked around over the years with having a boss clearly focused on the modern organization theory and driven by the contingency theory in organizing teams, to having a new boss who might be a fan of the postmodern perspective. I’ll explain:

My old boss owned a software company and when he put me to work on a project team, I always found myself faced with clients having insatiable appetites for sabotaging my work. Though failures on my part, each project was a successful outcome for my boss, because he had predicted my failure. He would swim in terms such as risks and constraints, assumptions, deliverables, and return on investments, all things measurable.

In my blind desire to be successful, I didn't realize my boss had not placed these same criteria for success on other analysts, so I quit playing his game and played like the others, refusing to provide him with time-wasting flowcharts, timelines, and graphs. Soon enough, I was taking on projects, reaching out to clients, and making successes (completing goals and objectives I had set for myself).

The old boss has since retired, taking with him his mask of the grand narrative. I can relate with the postmodern perspective much more because of my painful experiences dictated by the tyrant.

There is no right way to do things and by the time you’ve grown accustomed to your comfort zone, someone comes along using new terminology for the same things you’ve been working on for years, but now you’ve become seated in your ways and management isn't happy. They want change. The newly employed use fancy words explaining the same symbols of the past and management is in awe.

The emerging discourse, through hidden meetings where veteran employees are excluded and new employees become heroes, plays out until someone at the top realizes there is a communication problem which if left alone could likely embarrass the organization as a whole.

It came at a meeting and was announced that our CEO made this perfectly clear. The word “dashboard” is not to be used in any context when introducing our new portal to members. He insisted there is a public profile and a personal profile. Why not the new flashy “dashboard” terminology the new guy used the other day? Because we are not implementing a DASHBOARD, it’s a personal profile page!

How much does communication or lack thereof play a part in your successes and/or failures?

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