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Anyone else feeling a bit worried after being described as a 'barrier'? :D

Started 13 days ago

We have t move from managing communicatins to hekping managers communicate, I guess

I'm setting up a video panel here for anyone who wants to join:

I wouldn't worry - i hear it a lot but it's because we ask the difficult questions and it's important that we do. What some call a barrier, i would say it's more about our professionalism and doing what's right

Would have been good if Sir Martin had elaborated a bit more but got the sense perhaps his ire was more at legacy structures than IC as a profession?

I think it's probably a realistic view of many CEOs, and actually I think it was pretty refreshing that a CEO was clearly saying he felt as leader, HE owned Internal Comms. The old ways of doing IC needs to evolve and change and it's up to us to prove our value and the impact we have as an profession. So rather than 'writing things for the CEO' it's - as I said in the Q&A - being the mirror that reflects back to the CEO whether what he wants to say will land well. More coaching, capability building, curation - less ghost writing.

Somewhat. But I like the idea of being seen as a resource. The client I'm supporting now went nearly overnight from a pyramidal, cascading organization that came to us to produce 'stuff', to one where on-site leaders became accountable as the main communications channel. I'm hopeful our expertise will be sought after once comms is understood as DIY.


He was happily being controversial, but I could see his point. I'm working on something now which could have gone out days ago but it's design by committee and the next round of review is for 14 (yes 14) leaders to see it before anyone else does. The lack of agility is often down to the review cycles, which leaders are part of, and maybe we could do more to challenge that.

Working in a global organisation which is now HQ in the US (not UK anymore) my US colleagues want everything to go through them.  However, the crisis is in full swing by the time they open their eyes and it's not possible / practical to wait that long to respond - it has caused issues for us over here in EMEA responding to Covid-19 issues.  From this experience, I agree with Sir Martin - IC is putting up barriers, and we should think about empowering people and tech in all geographies to respond quickly, rather than holding the power of approval to one person / timezone. 

I think it's also a reflection on the processes, technologies and channels that we use  - and the relationships we have with the C suite. We must be enablers of comms, curators of comms and hold a mirror up for the organisation.  

IMHO barrier comments tend to come from highly transactional / output focussed mindsets. Speed can be good - but understanding purpose, culture and values can prevent barriers from forming in the first place.

The point in this crisis is the need to a renewed sense of purpose, especially in how we respond to the panic. It is inevitable that CEOs much come to the fore and lead. That should be seen as a positive, that communicators _now_ need to figure out how to support. And also to use to encourage others to continue the changes, be it in local communities, with consumers, or through innovation. Its about leadership and how to encourage a positive response from it. 

I think it depends on the situation. In BAU creating the right levels of gatekeeping can help to manage volumes and content going out, ensuring you don't overwhelm people. Where in a crisis you need to recognise when that gatekeeping needs to relax and get out the way to move at pace to deliver what's needed at the right times. 

I think it's the difference between the IC practitioner who is a conduit (too many/possibly the larger portion of our profession still), reliant on all sorts of other parties to sign off outputs and make decisions on what goes out when. This is different to leaders in our field who can act decisively with what happens and (perhaps most importantly) are trusted with the mandate to get on with things, per their expertise area. 

Ultimately, my hearing of what MS says is about being a business person first and an IC person second. 

Gemma Wardell has a good point. IC is not necessarily as big a barrier as hierarchical approvals. And comms written/approved by 14 execs are not only slow to be released, they rarely say anything credible or of value.

Isn't it always a collaboration as well - sometimes its for us to be the catalyst for comms to happen because we're listening to our customers and know what's needed ...and our role to help leaders find their voice.. which for some comes naturally and for others less so...

We should hear from the CEO directly, in their own voice. But not all are as articulate as Sir Martin so the comms. needs vary in every organisation. 

I am sure his IC team has put extensive time and effort into preparation so all 'instant' comms are quick and appropriate; e.g. clarify purpose and values, strategic planning, and setting up (and prioritising) key messages, channels, and platforms.

I think Sir Martin's comment shows why IC needs to "coach and consult" more than "create and cascade". If we are supporting our managers and leaders to be great communicators, and devloping a culture of communications within our organisations, some of these barriers can be overcome. By building communications capability and trust in the value of engagement, we can help leaders see its something they cant do without.

Sir Martin said he knows what to say and when and can speak to 2500 staff at once, he didn't need any IC input. Let's hope when he does this he plans a little better than today. He clearly didn't understand his audience and instantly upset them with any intention of doing so.

He proved the value of the internal comms function in our fell swoop.

I have to be honest I don't think much of simply communicate's approach to conference planning.

There is always an opportunity to open our minds, reflect and learn. Barrier is a strong and emotive word and, of course, none of us would be a barrier intentionally. But, it is good to step back and double check if we can do things in a better way - especially with the world changing so quickly.

Sir Martin's points about speed are well taken - though as others have pointed out, it's usually the reviews and approvals that slow us down (often including educating stakeholders about why we're taking a certain approach).

That said, did anyone else find it ironic that an apparently off-the-cuff comment calling his audience "barriers" shows exactly why you sometimes need to slow down to get the message right? Because, whatever other points he hoped to land, that's the one that did!

I felt Sir Martin's comments were a little outdated! Appreciate that communications professionals need to quickly react, and that we are living in a world where communication is 24/7, however there will always be a need to step back to consider approach and how others will react (and that will involve a certain degree of approvals, reviewing and pulse testing). It's about working closely with leaders - coaching, interpreting and creating the right messages. His use of 'barriers' wasn't perhaps the best message to this audience. Perhaps he should be listening to his communications professionals more!

Thank you to everyone who replied and gave insight to my comment :D I think we all have different views, which of course is totally fine! I think I felt a bit disheartened as most of us work to make sure we are enablers, rather than blockers! 

I'm with you Lucy, I also think this. Not least because of all which has come out of the last couple of months. When we first spoke to Chad at Nationwide to hear his story, I was really struck by one point he said which was 'Communications is now a bigger priority than operations' having moved from an organisation whose leadership were set on 'traditional' working patterns, it's been completely overhauled.  

I think having to say "no" sometimes, you will always run that risk.  But one way I've think that works to avoid this, is to make sure that you resource the team to 200% of what you need for planned communications. 

Or to put it another way, when doing an annual IC plan, only fill it to 50% with planned activity.  Let's be realistic, an IC plan developed for the world as it was in January will have shifted significantly by April.  You've either got to be able to flex and adapt, your plan in real time or else you need to leave some "space" to be reactive and responsive to the leaders, the business and it's changing business conditions. 

You might think this is unrealistic in a cost-constrained world, but this is how I would design an IC function if building it from scratch.  I don't think we can afford NOT to leave capacity for ad-hoc and responsive comms.