Finding the Right Flow of Communication May End Breakdowns

Posted by Kristin Arnold on April 19, 2009

One of the largest challenges facing many organizations today is the effective communication of important information.  With all the bits of news coming at us from the internet, phones, faxes, email, and the good ol’ fashioned grapevine, it is hard to know what is important.  Add geographic distance to the mix, and you have the recipe for a guaranteed breakdown in communications.

Does your organization have a methodical, systematic way to communicate important information “down” to all levels, as well as bring information/questions “up?”  If not, try this “Flow-Down, Flow-Up” method:

Senior Team. The CEO/Leadership team decides what information should be “flowed down” for the week.  One team member (rotate this role, rather than rely on the same senior team member) captures the information in an e-mail or memo sent to all employees and posted in key strategic areas such as the cafeteria bulletin board.

Team Leaders. All team leaders or supervisors meet with their teams for five to ten minutes to discuss the Flow Down.  The team leader goes through the information while asking for comments or input from the team.  The team leader then sends these comments to the “collector.” Some teams even go another step and coordinate the Flow Down as a regular agenda item at their weekly staff meetings.

Collector. Usually someone from Human Resources, the collector simply creates an action item list from the comments, inputs or suggestions.  The list identifies the action, the appropriate team leader or manager to address the issue, as well as a reasonable response deadline.  (Some comments take longer than others).

Appropriate Lead. The team leader or manager assigned to the action item responds to the issue or concern to the Collector.  It is his responsibility to coordinate or “find” the answer, even if the Collector did not select the best possible person to address the issue.  The Appropriate Lead makes sure the issue gets addressed by the right people by the response deadline.  If the Lead needs more time to analyze or address the issue, the Lead simply states the “new” response deadline as well as the reasons why he or she needs more time to respond.

Collector. The collector assembles the responses and sends them “up” to the senior team to attach to the next “flow down” cycle.

Ground Rules. The only way this process will work is if the senior team, supervisors and collectors agree to participate in this process.  This isn’t a discretionary item.  Participation and adherence to the specified time frames is mandatory.  All the items that get “flowed up” must be addressed promptly and honestly.

Most teams flow down every week or every two weeks, depending on their recurring needs to get information out to folks as well as their ability to respond to questions and concerns from within the organization.

Question:  What communication method has been most effective for your team?


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