Failure to Communicate

 -  4/5/07

As anyone who regularly checks this space knows, I am a big proponent of good communication in businesses.

As anyone who regularly checks this space knows, I am a big proponent of good communication in businesses. The quality of information flow within an organization often is a good indicator of the quality of the organization, period.

Sadly, this attribute is lacking in many companies. And in this day and age, enterprises that suffer too many breakdowns in communication just won’t survive.

When I see companies like this, I sometimes think of the giant sauropods, the distinctive-looking dinosaurs with gargantuan bodies, long necks and tiny heads. These beasts must have been an impressive sight to behold. They were the largest creatures ever to walk the earth, and many weighed more than 100 tons.

Yet, because of their physiology, it took could take minutes for nerve impulses to travel to their brains from the other parts of their enormous bodies. (By contrast, human beings can almost instantaneously discern if they’ve, say, touched a hot stove.)

These dinosaurs’ imposing size was simultaneously their greatest strength and weakness.

Similarly, many “dinosaur” organizations of our time are daunting in their sheer size.

Because of their mass and structure, though, exchanges of information and ideas move through these enterprises about as efficiently as bodily signals inside a brontosaurus.

Specifically, I recall an experience I had early in my career with the old AT&T, when I was invited to corporate headquarters to speak to one of its top executives.

I was pretty green at the time, and I remember feeling really intimidated as I walked past rows of secretaries, miles of carpet and lots of pictures of dead old men before arriving at the palatial office of this bigwig.

When I finally got there, the executive didn’t even bother introducing himself.
Instead, he looked at me condescendingly and asked, “How much experience do you have working in Fortune 10 corporations?”

I nervously replied that I had none, but I had a lot of experience in a wide range of other companies. He seemed completely unimpressed.

I then enthusiastically described what I thought would be important changes for the organizations of the future and how the traditional AT&T — including its leaders — might need to change. I also explained how the company’s bureaucracy, high overhead and stifling corporate culture might not work in the “new world” of business.

Article Keywords:   technology  

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