It Is Probably Your Communication

Greg Smiley, CIO, Florida Department of Transportation
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Greg Smiley, CIO, Florida Department of Transportation

Greg Smiley, CIO, Florida Department of Transportation

As a CIO, our primary focus is to create business value through technology. The technology itself, however, does not create the long-lasting business value we are looking for. After all, technology has a very short lifecycle. The true business value comes from driving actions and commitment from the organization in ways that yield results, leveraging technology where needed. Great communication is what enables you to drive those actions and gain the commitment; it is the key to creating business value.

Most of your challenges are a result of communication gaps, either directly or indirectly. This year, the Florida Department of Transportation conducted a focus group to further examine its annual employee survey results and identify areas for improvement. It explored topics related to leadership, recognition, safety, training, resource management, work environment, and employee pay and benefits. Of all items identified as improvement opportunities by current employees, 74 percent were either directly or indirectly related to communication gaps. Communication is the common thread that tends to run through most challenges faced by a large organization.

 If you want to reduce your turnover rates, improve performance, and ultimately increase business value for your organization, make communication a major focus 

Although communication is not the most glamorous area of responsibility for a CIO, it is a foundational component for success. When you solve communication gaps, your initiatives become much more likely to succeed. Communication tends to be overlooked, or at the very least underestimated; because we communicate regularly, we think we are good at it. To the contrary, it must be planned and deliberate to be successful. Lack of communication creates a lack of trust. When there is a lack of trust, everything goes sideways.

There are plenty of resources that will help you create a communication plan, but there are some nuances to pay attention to when working through your plan. First, you should have a communication plan for each audience. Your goals, level of detail, and frequency will most likely, and should, vary depending on your recipients.

Second, consider who should deliver the message. You may not always be the best person to deliver it. If your audience is internal employees, their primary supervisor may be a better choice. A great way to ensure your message is delivered as intended is to simply attend the meeting where the message is delivered. Your attendance not only raises the importance but also ensures the message is delivered as intended while building team cohesion.

Third, planning your timeline for delivery has multiple components. Plan the order in which each audience receives the information. Executives, for example, don’t like surprises so it may be a good idea to communicate with them first. In addition to the order, time compression should be considered. The more emotionally charged the information is, the more you will need to communicate to everyone at once. Information will leak, so plan for it. Finally, don’t overlook the impact organizational turnover has on your messaging. You will need to be repetitive without oversaturating your message.

Great communication is not easy, but when it is done right everything becomes much easier. Take every opportunity to tie in how the individual work relates to the bigger picture.

Most challenges you will encounter are related to communication gaps, so if you want to reduce your turnover rates, improve performance, and ultimately increase business value for your organization, make communication a major focus.

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