Planning and Communication: Without Both, You Have Nothing

The decisions that face patients in end-of-life situations are not the sort that elicit a shrug. 

How do you feel about resuscitation? 

What about intubation? 

What’s your stance on organ donation? 

Even the basics – who is the emergency contact? – are not something most people want left open to interpretation. These are questions for which everyone has an opinion: personal, distinct, and all but impossible (not to mention unethical) for anyone else to infer.

Yet there is rampant miscommunication where these preferences are concerned. Even those in end-of-life situations, who know they should be making and recording their expectations in an advance directive, often neglect to do so. Many wait on someone else – a doctor, a family member – to initiate the conversation.

The business world seldom faces such life-and-death decisions or hyper-sensitive ethical crossroads. Nevertheless, HR managers, teams, and entire organizations make the same fundamental errors in their planning and communication. That is, they postpone it indefinitely, or everyone waits for someone else to start the conversation.

What’s the Plan?

In today’s technophile world, survival for businesses big and small means planning ahead for cybersecurity hacks, holes, and failures. Even something as simple as a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy blurs the lines between employee perks, productivity, and an existential threat to the organization.

Having a clear plan goes beyond setting goals or having a killer growth strategy. Especially in the human resources context, plans are about combining policy with project and organizational risk control, company culture, employee values, even technology and resource management. Planning is the first step to getting everyone on the same page.

Effective planning takes prescience and pragmatism. Managers need not bog themselves down trying to imagine – and then preparing for – every conceivable hypothetical. But having a sense of where conflict may arise, as with employee cell phones and laptops, is important. That comes from paying attention not only to the work environment of an organization, but also of the wider world in which the company operates.

We Need to Talk

Effective communication clarifies risks inherent in any project or even routine operations. Look back at the healthcare example: advanced directives aren’t just important when death is probable. In fact, they may be most important when death isn’t even something the patient or provider are thinking about. Deliberate decision-making and honesty get clouded by urgency and the emotion of high-stakes circumstances. That is as true in human resources management as it is for the Emergency Department.

It is better to at least outline a change management strategy when disruption isn’t knocking at the door, presenting an existential threat. Understanding risks and uncontrollable variables up front, when risk calculus isn’t being driven by urgency, makes it easier to deal with changes in the risk landscape later on. The conversations simply flow better. Employees are more apt to listen and be receptive; management can be inclusive and transparent. Who hasn’t been pulled into a closed-door meeting during a crisis?

So it is with business planning and project management: creating a culture of straightforward risk calculation and mitigation/preventative standards helps fight panic and control reactions when things go anything less than perfectly. Closed doors invite fear and suspicion, while open doors lead to open minds. Giving people a voice or a seat at the table for general planning conversations is as beneficial to positive company culture as it is to the plans themselves.

Imagine Our Future Together

Beyond maximizing performance, hedging against risk, and avoiding miscommunication, transparency and planning are simply good for engagement. When people can see the bigger picture and understand the way all the moving parts fit together into a cohesive strategy, it adds purpose to work. Frankly, talking about the future helps everyone visualize it as a shared experience. It reinforces the idea that the team will still be together.

The best engagement efforts support both individual improvement and retention. Planning sessions give people from every department and role a stake in their shared future. Communicating about those plans give everyone a sense of relevance, a forum for feedback, and a reason to care about that shared future.

No plan succeeds without solid communication. When both of those things become a priority, organizations thrive. So what’s your plan for the future of your company?

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