Steve Fenton

Communication is the organisational cardiovascular system

Web Sticky NotesI read a statement that said communication is oxygen to a company. I could see the intention of the metaphor, but I don’t think it was quite right. Communication is more like the cardiovascular system of the organisation.

Here are my reasons for this adjustment.

A good cardiovascular circulates read and white blood cells, plasma, and platelets. The ultimate purpose of the system isn’t pumping blood around the body though; it is distributing vital oxygen and supplying disease-fighting capabilities. It is not use circulating blood without these two vital benefits being realised.

A good communication system ensures knowledge is pumped along the communication channels. The ultimate purpose of the system isn’t simply delivering messages to people; it is distributing a vital shared vision and purpose. It is not use communicating efficiently without these two vital benefits being realised!

What does a good communication system look like? It starts with the right information reaching the right destination. It is much better to miss a message than to read one that isn’t relevant. This is why email is such a poor mechanism.

If you are working in a lean or agile team, you can improve communication immediately by ditching email and using your task board as the primary communication method. I won’t describe the exact details – it should match closely to how you already use your board for work. Rather than clogging up email boxes, create a communication card on your board (it may just be a place-holder for a conversation if that is how it works for you already) and let it flow across the board somehow.

Just like you do with your process, you’ll find problems in your communication system during your retrospectives or whatever ceremony you perform to continuously improve – and you’ll change things to make it communication more effective.

Written by Steve Fenton on