Chris Markiewicz's Blog
Every Monday – thoughts, observations and ideas that hold up a mirror to who & how we are

High performance – its a matter of lubrication

We replaced our car a few weeks ago. The venerable old Mercedes had served us well for almost  twelve years, but the time had come to trade it in for something newer and more economical. We  made sure that our “new” car came supplied with evidence of regular servicing – reassurance that it had been cared for and the oil changed at the required intervals.

 The oil in our car lubricates, it prevents friction in all the moving parts and ensures a long lasting, reliable engine.

 Likewise, any organisation or relationship needs to be lubricated. Not with oil (a bizarre picture popped into my head as I typed that!), but with clean, clear communication.

 Communication is what ensures any organisation, department or relationship runs smoothly. Without that lubrication permanent damage can be done.

 It’s very costly to replace a car engine. Sometimes, depending on the age of the car, it may not even be economically viable to do so. Equally, lack of lubrication in a company can be immensely costly, yet I suspect that inordinately large amounts of money are pouring down the corporate drain through just that – often without the organisation even realising it.

 I have watched several episodes of Undercover Boss on 4OD in recent weeks. The programme features CEO’s taking to the shop floor in their companies in order to see how they really perform. Time after time they encountered problems – I won’t go into detail here – problems that had their root in poor communication. Thankfully, they recognised the human cost of this and how it tied in inextricably with the financial performance of their company.

 I sometimes ask people to think of a foul up that may have occurred at work – something that ended up at crisis point. We then try to track back to the root of the calamity. Almost without exception, it will have been down to some kind of miscommunication which then knocked on and spiralled into something much bigger. The one exception to this would be technical breakdown.

 Some of these simple, avoidable miscommunications led to situations that cost any number of times more than it did to employ the original “culprit” for an entire year! It may have been as simple as a call not returned or a request that was overlooked.  I shudder to think how often this is replicated out there in the workplace.

 However, this isn’t simply a linear impact. Such transgressions will have a potentially massive detrimental effect on relationships. If I let a colleague down, for example, it is highly unlikely to be forgotten. If that colleague doesn’t have the ability or courage to deal with the issue assertively, then there are likely to be any number of counterproductive behaviours that could manifest – either consciously or subliminally.

 In other words, they are less likely to want to co-operate with me in the future.  I wonder at how significant the cost could be in loss of goodwill and lack of productivity. At worst it can become like a poison spreading through  the organisation. (Further implications of this were touched on in my post “IQ, EQ – how’s the TQ?” – found in my archive from May 2011)

 So, quality of internal communication is something that too many organisations ignore at their peril. The most insidious thing is that, usually such miscommunications ultimately impact on the customer through broken promises, mismanaged expectations, mix ups of all sorts and ultimately loss of reputation and business.

 So, are you clear and unambiguous with your communication at work? Do you keep people in the loop? Do you return calls and emails or do you not bother? Do you make a written note when asked to do something – lest you forget?

 It’s these apparently tiny misdemeanours that start to taint the quality of lubrication and create bigger issues further down the line. Initial friction, ultimate breakdown.

 Just like a car with no evidence of it being cared for, the value of an organisation could become seriously compromised.  Check right now, as you read this whether there is anyone that you were supposed to contact, to get back to, a call to return, a promise you made that you’ve not yet delivered on – make it a priority. It could cost dearly otherwise.

 And next time you’re out in your well serviced car and you hear the engine running sweetly under the bonnet (or behind you if it’s your Porsche or Hillman Imp), you can liken it to the smooth running outfit you happen to be working for, knowing that it is thriving as a result.

 See you next week, as long as I don’t forget. Must make a note – I don’t want to upset anyone eh?           


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