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Sunday, April 17, 2011

If a Tree Falls in the Forest....

You've heard the saying, "If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it really make a sound?"  I would like to propose the question slightly different, "If a company makes changes and doesn't tell everyone about it, did it really make a change?" It's a legitimate analogy.
Like a forest, made up of several trees, companies are made up of several people and departments. In the forest every individual tree impacts the entire forest, they share nutrients. create shadows and impact the environment they all share. Ebsco is made up of over seventy people and several departments forming an organization. By definition, an organization is a group of elements that contribute to the whole. In other words, several different departments interacting to complete one goal.
As I mentioned in my last blog, everyone at Ebsco is contributing ideas and concepts to move us to the World Class status we are pursuing. An idea is nothing more than a thought if its not implemented.  When an idea is implemented it creates change.  Like the forest, no individual or department at Ebsco stands alone. A change in any department will impact several other departments and individuals. So... If we make a change and don't tell everyone about it, did we really make a change? I can assure you things changed but did we make the change.
If we were in the forest when a tree falls, we would hear more than just the tree, the crack of the trunk, limbs snapping as they impact other trees, birds taking flight, brush and leaves rattling when the tree lands.  The tree falling would create several sounds.  It is the same in the organization.  A small change will ripple through the company. If we are iunformed about the change and understand why it happened, other departments and individuals can adjust and change in sync so we move the company in the right direction.  Change without communication is nothing more than a bunch of dead trees.
At Ebsco communication is constant. We have created several formal opportunities to share ideas and keep everyone in the loop. 
Daily announcements every morning.  Sometimes compared to the daily school lunch menu announced when we were in grade school. This gives us an opportunity to find out what events are happening that day, and celebrate personal achievements like individuals birthdays.
Department meetings each month. This is an opportunity to sit down, share ideas and talk about what is happening in each department and across the company that impacts everyone. 
Flyers posted around the shop. They're everywhere.  Who has a birthday or anniversary day with the company, upcoming events and training sessions to come.
Monthly full company luncheons.  These are fun events to share in our accomplishments.
Social media postings. The way we communicate change is also changing. Texting, Tweeting, Facebooking and Blogging.
Texting. When we had the recent blizzard, management prepared for the event. Everyone was informed ahead of time that they would receive text messages of any scheduling changes.  Cell phone numbers were gathered from all team members.  What wasn't considered was the time it would take to send over seventy text message. Many employees did not receive the message in time.  We now have a mass text message program that broadcast one text message to all employees, instantaneously.
Web page. has a wealth of information for customers and employees.  On the web page we have links to our Facebook, Twitter and Blogger sites. 
Facebook. Our Facebook page has been very popular.  We are utilizing it to share stories about employees and the company.  We have photos and videos and try to keep it fun.
Twitter.  Ebsco is Tweeting.  Short notes every day on what's happening and when we post to our other social media sites.
Blogger.  You're reading it now.  We are posting weekly to our Blogger site.  It is our intention to utilize these blogs to offer greater insight into the whys behind the whats at Ebsco. 
Communication is obviously important.  Change that isn't communicated will result in random confusion. To successfully create change with a purpose requires great communication with everyone impacted.
Going back to our forest analogy, I think their is one more consideration for it to actually make a sound.
If we were in the forest when the tree fell but had never heard a tree fall or a branch break, did it make a sound.  Without an understanding of what we are hearing it is nothing more than noise. A sound without  some reference and understanding is simply a noise. In an organization, creating change without MEANINGFUL communication still isn't meaningful change. Training creates the reference necessary for true change to happen.  If you previously heard a limb snap you will begin to understand what is happening when you hear a tree fall. 
Our commitment to training allows each of us to understand the changes when they are communicated.  To communicate to someone that the process for FAI is changing means little until they understand what FAI stands for.  Learning that processes in other departments will change means nothing unless you have a basic knowledge of those processes. Communication does not occur without shared common knowledge.
At Ebsco, as most companies we have always trained our employees well in their departments and the skills they need to perform their jobs.  The key is to expand that training beyond their daily scope to other departments and processes across the company.  For employees to maximize the benefits from changes implemented outside of their scope they must understand the entire process. We have implemented Ebsco U to address this issue.
Ebsco U is designed to present all departments and processes to every employee.  We will teach the fundamentals of our product and process beyond the scope of the individuals daily job. With the knowledge gained from Ebsco U, employees will better  understand the information passed on to them and allow them apply their individual expertise for a better outcome.
Understanding how to communicate is another key to effective change.  It has little benefit to equip your employees with the knowledge to understand the changes if those who deliver the message are unclear.  Communication is a learned skill and something that requires training and practice.
One of the primary functions of our team leads is to communicate with the teams.  We have implemented monthly meetings for our team leads.  These meeting will focus on coaching, communication and sharing ideas.  We are developing formal training programs, within Ebsco U to address these issues to our team leads.  Communication is also the primary responsibility of our managers.  We have weekly management meetings and are developing training programs for them in Ebsco U.
So back to our original question. Does a falling tree in the woods make a sound if no one is there to hear it? Scientist define sound as vibrations transmitted capable of being detected.  My answer is if no one is there to hear it, it really doesn't matter and if they don't understand what they are hearing it's just noise.

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