Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Avoiding Communication Barriers: It's all in the flow

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act was passed in 2002 to encourage increased corporate accountability and protect investor rights. One major requirement of the law is the creation of audit committees to work with managers and auditors to ensure the accuracy of financial records.

To succeed, open and consistent communication is important. There is, after all, reports to be created, transactions to be analyzed, and meetings to be held. Active listening and relating ideas helps make the process that much easier. This includes the sharing of information as well and coordinating meetings to encourage communication.

There is so much that upper management and internal auditors can do, and so they trust employees to gather the information needed to generate timely and accurate financial statements. Here are four major communication barriers to that process and their solutions:

·  Plan meetings well. Space meetings apart and avoid over-rescheduling. When I first accepted a process improvement project, I received six invitations for future meetings in one day. In less than a week, three were rescheduled twice and one the hour before the actual meeting itself. Not only was it confusing, but frustrating. Keep meetings spread apart or avoid planning too far ahead. Documents get lost, as well as motivation.
·  Update mass e-mail lists. It helps group members and their assistants meet deadlines and prepare well. Two directors were pretty upset once when a quarterly analysis they were waiting for missed the informal deadline. The deadline schedule was never sent to the individual holding that information because she was never added to the list. Well, that didn't go over too well at first, but apologies were made and the issue troubleshooted.
·  Avoid information hoarding. If you possess documents or backup that someone else must have access to, by all means, share it. Avoid waiting to be hunted down. It wastes time for both you and the receiver, because you have to search for it and the receive must wait for it. Also, the latter needs time to review before a deadline or a meeting.
·  Learn to write effective (and brief emails and memos). Time is a commodity, especially around deadlines and exclusively when meeting with senior managers. Stay on point, clearly specifying the intention of your email in the first sentence. What are you looking for, or need from the intended recepient? Then follow with a course of action. Keep the language simple. A coworker was upset once at a response she received after sending an elaborate and intelligent email to a contact person. It was a simple request, but she related the need in four paragraphs and an advanced vocabulary. She received a response with four words: What do you want?

No comments:

Post a Comment