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Design a matrix communications plan

How can large, sprawling organisations address complex problems quickly and efficiently in a fast-changing business landscape?
A ping pong ball flowing along a winding ribbon.

How can large, sprawling organisations address complex problems quickly and efficiently in a fast-changing business landscape?

The short answer: many of them can’t.

Especially those with traditional, intensely bureaucratic, and hierarchical structures. When information needs to trickle down a sky-high ladder, rung by rung, not only does it take much longer but valuable ideas are also lost along the way.

Understand the speed of the problem

  • What are you trying to solve for and how fast is that problem moving? Are you communicating with your organisation at a tempo that will get you ahead of that problem set?
  • Consider holding a regular organisation-wide meeting to align understanding, especially if you are working with rapidly changing priorities. Globally distributed organisations may benefit from video teleconferencing.
  • Allow participants to take their learnings at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels and move independently until the next meeting.

Get clear on who needs to talk about what

  • Think of disparate teams as nodes in the network of communication.
  • Encourage real dialogue. Avoid scripted presentations in favor of short Q&A sessions with designated speakers.
  • Encourage speakers to talk about what is actually happening on the ground. Encourage questioners to tease out: the speaker’s reasoning, anticipated reactions to a given action, parallel learnings, alternative solutions to a given problem.
  • Build a culture that encourages transparency. Leaders are responsible for creating a safe space where people can admit failure, ignorance, and mistakes. Abandon punishment-prone feedback.

Establish a process for a disciplined, dependable cycle

  • Distributed doesn’t mean disorganised. Make it clear where decision rights sit and when it’s necessary to get more senior approval.

Over to you

Think of a problem your organisation currently faces.

  • How would you describe the “tempo” or pace at which the problem is growing?
  • How would you describe the pace at which your relevant teams are communicating about it?
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Critical and Strategic Thinking in Practice

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