The importance of speaking up

I reviewed an article recently on communication and the effects of employees speaking up on managerial style and company communication flow. It was an interesting article, which although only focussing on Asian companies, illustrated a number of important lessons including the implications not just for managerial style and management skills but also I felt on knowledge sharing within organisations.

Knowledge sharing is a part of the much larger continuous learning cycle – learn before, during and after doing. This itself relies on a willingness and freedom to communicate, something that the study above shows is an increasingly complex task particularly in large multi-national organisations.

It reminds me of a project I worked on for an organisation about 12 months ago helping them to develop a learning programme that would be deployed globally and taught through e learning and virtual learning. The method of deployment relied heavily on participants to proactively communicate freely, effectively sometimes in a language that was not their mother tongue.

We found that the most effective way to encourage communication was through development of a learning charter that everyone (students and teachers alike) agreed to before commencement of the programme. The learning charter set out a set of guidelines for behaviour, interaction, time keeping and consideration of others. It was the basis for developing an open environment where inPiduals felt they were able to express themselves and would be listened to and where there was no fear of repercussion for getting something wrong. In addition to the learning charter, part of the success of the programme was getting the ‘teachers’ to develop a consultative coaching style to provide flexibility in the programme – giving more time and encouragement to those that needed it. The programme was so effective that within six months of launch it had a waiting list of participants.

We hope to be covering more on communication, learning and associated KM techniques in later issues. We would be keen to hear of your experiences.