With apologies to Dr. Dolittle, I was thinking how Yammer could solve the problem of internal communications. Recently Microsoft announced it had has bought the enterprise social network company Yammer. Yammer is a social media platform inside a company to coordinate internal communication. Yammer is a secure, private social network that helps employees collaborate easily, make faster decisions and self-organize into teams. As the company says, “It is a new way of working that naturally drives business alignment and engages employees.” Yammer provides an answer to the internal communications gap. How do you get who want the information connected to the staff that have the information? If Yammer is one answer, how are organisations that do not use Yammer answering the question?
Internal communication in any organisation can sometimes be seen like a pushmi-pullyu from Dr. Doolittle. The senior managers push out messages and staff try to pull information. If the information pushed is not what staff want to pull or what staff are pushing is not what senior manager need, the system does not work effectively. One way this can be overcome is through an all staff email. They are a great way to push information, but the message tends to be stilted and ineffective. At the same time, too many all staff emails and people start to ignore them.
The other way is to have clearinghoue where people can pose questions. However, people may not see the answers, if not broadcast. They may find it difficult to ask follow up questions. The pull effect, in this situation, tends to fracture the message that senior managers may be trying to send. Different people may ask similar questions that defy a uniform answer. Moreover, the person controlling the answer box can know and control what is being sent. In those situations, rumour, gossip and informal networks emerge. Information hoarding becomes the default position because knowledge and access become the currency. The pushmi-pullyu is unhealthy.
One approach, perhaps pre-social media, to distribute information and all information to be drawn is to use a cascade down and cascade upwards system. A set briefing each day/week/month is cascaded downward from senior management team to extended management team and onto extended service teams. A monthly or weekly newsletter supplements the briefing cascade. In large organisations, there would be departmental newsletters. The requests for information would reverse the process, as they would be passed upwards if the immediate manager could not answer the question or provide the information. The process could be sped up with emails and done with electronic communications.
The system may work to some degree but the basic question remains unanswered. How do you connect those who have the information with those who want it or need it to do their job? In the cascade model, you have to work up through the hierarchy before it can be moved across the hierarchy and then back down the hierarchy.
To improve internal communications, many public and private organisations are turning to Yammer and other social media platforms (wikis or blogs). In the UK, local authorities are being encouraged to use social media to leverage their limited resources. Some UK authorities are using Yammer such as Kent County Council and Walsall Council. Brighton and Hove started in 2009.
How do you fill the internal communications gap? Do you have a healthy pushmi-pullyu? Are you using or going to use Yammer?