February 27, 2006

Staying Informed

In Ross Dawson's book - "Developing Knowledge-Based Client Relationships", he says that "information may be intended simply to keep managers informed of what is relevant and important in their business environment, and to help build the knowledge that provides a broad backdrop to decision making and business activity."

This made me think of when I managed teams that were geographically and functionally distributed. Keeping up with the team was the biggest challenge. For example, I found that if I didn't speak to a team member over a 2 week span, then it would take me 4 weeks to catch up. This would mean that I could be making important decisions based upon stale information.

So I thought there could be value in providing a list of ways to stay informed:

  • Activity Reports: Tomorrow is the end of a month and in some organizations I can already hear emails being typed. Messages reminding people to produce and file the Monthly Report. Theses are also known as Red/Yellow/Green, Wins/Losses, Activity Reports etc... Sometimes the report is a Word Document or Excel Spreadsheet in others it's a custom application or part of a sophisticated CRM system. But the end game is the same - to identify and communicate issues and opportunities within a team and up the chain of command;
  • Sharing Calendars: Being able to view the calendars of your team members helps to stay connected. In a low tech company this could be a simple as photocopying schedules. In the opposite scenario you grant your team the rights to view your calendar. Normally the best way to say informed is to look 4 weeks back and 4 weeks forward;
  • Sunday Night Email: I worked for a manager that asked for an email every Sunday night with a bulletted list of goals and activities for the week. My business partner in China does this with his Chinese based teams when he travels. He find this to be a very effective way of knowing what's going on;
  • Biweekly "One on One" Discussions and Team Meetings are the traditional way to exchange information and gain status updates on initiatives. Using an Instant Messaging program is a good way hold these meetings when traveling;

If you have ways of keeping informed that work for you please share your ideas through the comment section below.

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