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Transforming industries from the inside out

In the first of our series on the Five Step Value Framework – 44’s business tool to demonstrate the value of internal communications to senior stakeholders – Account Director Phil Parrish explores how its first step, Change your mindset, is the seed from which organisations and industries can truly flourish.

Here’s an interesting question for all of us working in internal communications (IC). If an organisation treated our discipline the same as all its other operations, like finance, production, procurement and marketing, what would the ultimate benefits be?

That’s one of the questions posed in our Five Step Value Framework (FSVF) business model. In its first step, Change your mindset, we argue that by changing your perceptions of what IC is and what it should be, you’ll gain far more as an IC practitioner than just professional kudos and a comfy seat at the boardroom table.

Rather, by reframing IC’s purpose, perception and position, you’ll be on the way to making it not just the connecting tissue between different business areas, but the muscle powering how your organisation operates, performs and competes in its industry.

Scrutiny and rigour

An exciting premise for sure, but certainly not a far-fetched one, especially if you manage IC in a way that will bring the best out of its inherent qualities (see below). Like any other business operation, IC produces tangible outputs to agreed budgets, and should therefore be subject to as much scrutiny and rigour as things like production data or marketing ROI.

By giving IC the attention it deserves, and demonstrating its business value through planning, control, continuous improvement and robust strategy, you’ll also ensure the unique qualities of the discipline come into their own. The following are just some examples, but the list is by no means exhaustive:

• putting strategy into vivid, inspirational context for employees
• visibly demonstrating an organisation’s management culture
• supplying essential, targeted information at rapid pace
• providing organisational tools like an intranet or team briefing system
• meeting the need for immediate two-way communication across departmental boundaries
• informing, involving and inspiring its employees more frequently than the competition.

Interconnected

Bearing in mind the logical position of IC within an organisation is essentially an interconnected one, linking all other core operations together, it’s clear to see how an IC team can become the hub for sharing knowledge, ideas and information.

Put simply, quality IC equates to quality performance, excellence and competitive advantage, something only enhanced by advances in technology and a growing suite of social platforms to fuel communication.

Consequently, traditional notions of ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up’ communication become obsolete, replaced by a collaborative, self-sustaining and continually improving flow of horizontal information that creates a ripple effect beyond the business and into the wider industry.

In summary, by changing our mindset towards IC, we can think more creatively about its potential as a business tool. The end result could be to make it the most important, galvanizing force in any organisation, and by extension transform sectors and industries (quite literally) from the inside out.

Four stage operation

The FSVF outlines four stages through which the IC function must develop to achieve full maturity and maximum effect:

1. Internal Neutrality, where IC is purely reactive, consists of filtered down senior management decisions and is dismissed as out-of-date propaganda with no real benefit.
2. External Neutrality, where IC has leadership buy-in, firmer budgets and early adopters who see it as a valuable way of gaining exposure, even though measurement is confined to annual employee surveys and channel analytics.
3. Internally Supportive, where managers endorse IC because they have seen the tangible benefits, which in turn creates a self-fulfilling prophecy where the more IC activity is generated, the more value is gained through deeper employee involvement and greater productivity and quality.
4. Externally Supportive, where the IC operation is redefining industry expectations, thanks to the rise of the knowledge economy, more dynamic, flatter organisational structures and the increase in use of social media.

You can read more about the Five Step Value Framework here.

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