Thursday, April 05, 2012

Lean Principles and Developing Instruction: Structuring Communications

One of the key principles of Lean is that communications should be structured. I wasn't really sure what this meant, exactly. So I asked my own person consultant in all things business process related (my daughter Nicole) what this was about.

What she said was pretty simple, actually. That a communications plan should be in place that specifies how and what communication is going to occur. At first I thought that there simply must be more to this than that -- but then I remembered something that happened to me a while back. 

I had attended a conference and saw a new technology that I found pretty exciting. It was software that provided a virtual desktop to computers. It would allow us to have only one desktop to maintain, not 15. It would ensure that every day a fresh instance of the standard desktop was present on the machine, so we didn't have settings being changed, software missing, etc etc etc. So I asked one of the team to install it and thought we would try it out and then I could report our wonderful success to the other department heads and we would be the toast of the University. 

And my teammate hopped to and installed the software. 

And then the nightmare began -- not for me, but for the people who were responsible for actually supporting users in the lab, people that I had completely neglected to either ask or inform of my grand plans. It was with great embarrassment that I heard about the extra work and headaches I had caused for my team. And then I asked my teammate to uninstall it and put things back the way they were.

After that experience, I find myself not only stopping and thinking, "Who needs to know this?" but also thinking, "And who ELSE needs to know? And who ELSE?" A plan for structured communications helps to prevent this sort of problem. 

Recently, when I was helping the team rolling out a new student information system by developing user training, I was able to see that my plan for every-other-day status updates did inform my teammates, stakeholders, and clients. They all knew what was going on. But more importantly, their sense of anxiety was lessened as well. They knew what was going on, and they knew  they were going to hear again from me. Their energy didn't have to go into being worried. It could go into getting the project finished.


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