communication between cultures
When traditional/hierarchical organisations interact with flat ones, problems arise. Both have their styles of communication and procedures for interaction. There is some hope though, as members of flat ones’ generally know about the olden ways, and flat hierarchies appear in many natural arrangements. The difficulty lies in mindset and a lack of perception.
The traditional approach is to contain the interaction mainly between managers, while the actual work is done “below” by the experts or craftsmen. The flat approach is that everyone can interact with a customer, and no one manages the communication by default. If a need arises, someone can fill the role of a communicator.
Ever so often, the greatest problem in between the traditional and the “advanced” companies, is an interaction dilemma. The worst problems I’ve seen were between companies with of hierarchical structures and the resulting expectations on communication, and flat ones with fluid but externally unclear roles. The problem is not one that is unfixable, but rather one that is difficult to pinpoint or reveal.
We assume too much and default too quickly. The more complex our organisations become, the less similar our ways and agents of communications are. We should assume less and seek to understand the opposing group’s communication and operating culture. Too often, we default to handling others as we would handle ourselves.
We can inform a company’s intermediary that we organise ourselves flatly, but they can then not be forced to match their communication flows with ours. People tend to look for individual relationships, and those are based on trust. An organisational structure is insufficient to make people trust each other equally. Trust is earned.
The Rock says: know your role
We have two principal roles and the gamut that spreads among them; from the project/account manager to an expert. A non-reluctant and generalist-ish expert with basic communication skills and the incentive and motivation to help and support usually hits a sweet spot.
This expert-communicator can relate convincing arguments and produce the highly valued trust. Managers and highly specialised experts have their positions, especially in complicated or extensive endeavours. Often, both could use a little push towards generalisation, as a manager unaware of details or an expert unable to convey them, usually steer the project towards an untimely dead-end or halted chaos.
Often, people need constant encouragement for open communication between all parties. Sometimes, a designated communicator is required, even if they are a threat to becoming a bottleneck. The most important thing is to realise this need because otherwise information is easily left unshared. There can be too much information, and then curation is required, but in no circumstance should information become stale.
in the year two thousand …
Some say the future will see less of these easily understandable traditional hierarchies and more complex networks and interactions between able nodes. People living in the sweet spot mentioned earlier should see benefits arising in this type of an environment. It is not too early to utilise these ideas, as complexity is increasing and many of these needs already exist.