Do you share?

By Ken Garner
In June 30, 2015

When my daughter was much younger she used to pose this question to anyone she saw enjoying some food or drink she found appetizing. It’s a question I’m reminded of when I talk to CEO’s about their approach to managing the information flow to their employees. And, it’s a question I ask here because I’m often disappointed at the response I get.

When I got started in the industry I began at the lowest possible level- even with my shiny new undergraduate degree. During those early years of working “on the plant floor” we received virtually no information about how the company was doing. It was clear we were growing as the complement of employees and manufacturing space expanded, but we really didn’t know why or how. We could only assume, and we all know the old adage about what happens when we assume. Like all organizations we experienced good times and bad. It was when things were bad that the absence of information did the most damage. It’s true, “in the absence of information people will make things up and what gets imagined is almost always worse than reality”. The experience of working without basic information about “my company’s” business condition had a lasting impact on me and my belief in the value of information sharing.

Many options exist related to sharing information… electronic or printed internal newsletters, memos from the management team, postings on the company’s bulletin board, press releases, etc. My favorite approach is old-fashioned regularly scheduled periodic face-to-face company-wide meetings. To me, nothing can replace the personalized nature of meeting face-to-face, even in groups, where interactive dialog can take place and the quality of the communication can be evaluated instantly by observing body language and listening to questions. When I ran my company I scheduled company-wide meetings four times each year. With over 200 employees working six days/week, 24 hours/day some of these meetings need to be scheduled in the wee hours, but it was a commitment that delivered dividends. What did we discuss? A typical meeting agenda consisted of the following-

  • A review of a simplified P&L for both the quarter and year-to-date with comparisons to the same period of the previous year. I didn’t bother to review balance sheets and cash flow statements.
  • We reviewed the circumstances related to customers we lost and customers we gained. We discussed market place conditions and the results of the periodic customer satisfaction surveys we conducted.
  • We discussed plans for growth or contraction. We discussed plans to add new equipment or plans to retire older equipment.
  • We introduced new employees.
  • We recognized employees who were celebrating service anniversaries.
  • And, we had productive Q&A sessions to discuss what was on the minds of employees. (While many questions were submitted in advance, some questions were asked and answered spontaneously).

I know what some of you are thinking… we can’t take time out of our impossibly busy schedules for this kind of process. My answer is, you can’t afford not to. When you get the process optimized you can cover the topics identified above in 60 minutes. The return-on-investment is overwhelmingly compelling. The benefits include

  • The “teaching and learning” value is enormous. As a manager, you can teach your team about basic business management principles. You can share feedback about how customers and prospects are responding to the company’s value proposition and approach to customer management. And, you can get valuable insight from your employees about what elements of the production and service process need to be improved.
  • You establish high levels of organizational trust.
  • You spread responsibility for better management and execution.
  • You create a positive, sharing, and productive culture.

Yes, the purpose and value of effective information sharing has both a “business” component and an “organizational culture” component. When done properly there are few investments of your time that will have a greater positive return.

And today? Yes, the practice continues today at Epicomm with monthly staff meetings. The staff size (<20) is different, but with two office locations and some staff working remotely challenges still exist, but the value is just as large.

Let me know what you think. I’m always happy to discuss the content of my blogs with those that are interested.

Thank you for your consideration and engagement.

Ken Garner

President & CEO Ken Garner joined Epicomm – then the Association of Marketing Service Providers – in November 2008 as its President and CEO after a 33 year career in the printing industry – all with the same company. He joined United Litho, a heatset web magazine printing company, after receiving his undergraduate degree. Working his way up the corporate ladder from janitor/delivery driver he held a variety of jobs including V.P of Operations and V.P. of Sales and Marketing. He spent the last 12 years of his printing career as United Litho’s president. In 1994, he engineered the sale of the company to the Sheridan Group and became a member of its Leadership Team.

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