On a recent flight I listened to the pilot make an announcement over the public address (PA) system to update us with location, distance remaining and estimated arrival time. The update was an example of communicating progress, the final installment in this series on delivering successful customer experience initiatives.
What would change if the pilot made no announcements? Practically speaking – nothing. The plane was still headed to the same airport and our arrival time depended on pilot skill, favorable winds, and generosity of the travel gods. The airline uses these updates to help set expectations so travelers can make plans for their arrival.
Now think about what will happen if you make no announcements over the corporate “PA system”? In fact – nothing. This time, however, “nothing” is bad. Failure to communicate progress is a quick path to misalignment. Even if your team/company starts aligned, normal human tendencies and organizational forces push and pull these initiatives off course. Additionally, failure to communicate progress is a missed opportunity to correct course.
What matters when communicating progress? Communicate these five (5) elements each time you discuss progress:
- Rationale – remind people why the initiative exists. We are doing this because: our competitors aren’t/can’t, our customers demand it, we can grow the company faster if we do, etc. Do this each time and consider whether or not the reason remains valid. (It might not be.) The rationale should answer “why this?”
- Baseline – from what point do we depart? Pilots/passengers know this on their flights. Company employees need to know the same thing. What is our starting point? How well do we perform today?
- Target – where are we going? (See earlier post on goal measurement.) Be on guard for initiatives where good intentions are hurting your company.
- Impact – without describing the impact of improvements (or the costs of missing them) your company isn’t likely to win the hearts and minds, let alone energy, of your employees. People need a purpose. The impact should answer “why now?”
- Timing – over-communicate and your message loses its power through repetition or because too little is accomplished between updates. Under-communicate and people will forget the initiative even existed.
Many of us are in our current roles because we are people who make decisions, take action and accomplish results. We would do well to remember the pivot point, that these results are possible only because of clear goals, aligned teams, meaningful measurements and frequent communications. Without these elements, expect turbulence and bumpy landings.