A Communication Architecture
From Ben Horowitz:
Perhaps the CEO’s most important operational responsibility is designing and implementing the communication architecture for her company. The architecture might include the organizational design, meetings, processes, email, yammer and even one-on-one meetings with managers and employees. Absent a well-designed communication architecture, information and ideas will stagnate and your company will degenerate into a bad place to work.
I’m curious how people are reacting to the idea of “communication architecture.” I am guessing that there is a cohort of you out there giving it a “meh.” Or a “yeah we do that. meetings, email, processes. Check.”
But I challenge you to dig a little more into your architecture to determine whether or not it is truly “well-designed.” It’s not enough to have an architecture. One evolves whether you want it to or not, but it’s not always effective. And it’s also not enough merely to have a designed architecture (though that’s a start). That’s where you actually put some intention behind how you communicate. You are conscious about what information you share in person at a staff meeting versus what you post on the intranet.
But well-designed is another story. That’s where your intention about how people communicate with each other is matched with some clarity about what drives a successful enterprise. That, in my opinion, is rare. The rest of Ben’s post talks about something he calls “one on ones.” These are one-on-0ne meetings between a manager and an employee where the employee controls the agenda. They are designed to enable the employee to discuss things that would never be discussed in other formats:
If you are an employee, how do you get feedback from your manager on an exciting, but only 20% formed idea that you’re not sure is relevant without sounding like a fool? How do you point out that a colleague that you do not know how to work with is blocking your progress without throwing her under the bus? How do you get help when you love your job, but your personal life is melting down? Through a status report? On email? Yammer? Asana? Really? For these and other important areas of discussions, one-on-ones can be essential.
To me, whether you use one-on-ones like Ben does is not the point. The point is you thought about those types of communication above and you’ve included that in your communication architecture. You don’t simply expect all those topics to be brought up randomly. You’ve intentionally created a structure that coaxes them out. The same thinking should go into all the pieces of your communication architecture. Think more carefully about what communication you really need, and then design the structures to support that.