Situation Collection Posts

“Situation Collection Posts improve organizational and market awareness by streamlining communication of various situations, which may enhance or threaten an organization, to decision makers.”
Concept Summary

In a world dominated by email communications, open door management, and  other initiatives to improve transparency the underlying problems remain the same. Situations are not being communicated with enough speed and those communications are often not clear when they reach the intended recipient, having been modified or even repressed  due to the hidden agendas of individuals or units in an organization’s reporting system. The perception of this repression leads to a fear of retaliation, which leads to more repression ultimately degrading an organization’s ability to respond to existing and future situations. Situation Collection Posting is a method by which situations can be monitored and passed along quickly throughout an organization  in their original form. This uniform approach allows users to bring issues to relevant parties while bypassing bottlenecks, avoiding hidden agendas, and can  reduce negative perception.
Organizational Awareness– In the context of this tool organizational awareness is a competence defined as the collective ability of an organization to have objective or subjective knowledge, insight, or foresight into situations or responses and the effect that they may have on normal activities.
Communication Bottlenecks– Points of an organization where communications are not effectively or efficiently processed or transmitted. This risk is readily apparent in organizations that place a lot of emphasis on chains of command. With each point between an originator and a recipient increases the risk that one of those points will have resistance to the communication being passed along. This resistance may be due to hidden agendas or a negative perception of the communication.
Value Added Responses – Value added responses are either strategic or tactical action plans that have been formulated with a high level of relevant information and analysis, and with Action Checklists developed.
Hidden Agendas Defined as the lack of clarity into another’s personal motivations and actions. Each and every employee from the entry level employee to the highest ranks of the organization  have hidden agendas which are -not transparent to those around them.
Fear of Retaliation– Described as either a rational or irrational fear of a negative reaction by either another individual, a group of individuals, or the organization as a whole. This can be reinforced by previous personal experiences, employee perception, as well as organizational communications.
Multiple Avenues of Communication – The more avenues available to an individual the more likely communications will be received by the right person or decision maker while minimizing distortion of the message during transmission.  On the other side of the coin is that the lack of uniformity leads to some in management favoring one communication  method over another with the risk of ineffective and inefficient reporting increasing as a result.
The Situation
The gap between leaders and the employees who work for them when it comes to communications has long plagued organizations around the world. Initiatives such as flat management, open door policies, forums, etc have made some headway to making an organization more transparent to their leadership.
It is ironic that the leaders of an organization often know little about the realities of what is going on within it. What leaders should know is often warped, molded, and miscommunicated by every level of bureaucracy between the originator and the decision maker. There are several reasons for this. Each functional leader between the originator and the key decision maker has their own agenda, their own sense of preservation, and their own perception regarding the opportunity or problem being communicated.
In addition originators are often repressed for a number of reasons. Their concerns may have been dismissed before, perhaps their perception of their manager is negative to the point where they don’t share information, or even more damaging they feel the organization does not value what they think. If the originator does not feel comfortable to share information due to a threat of retaliation then opportunities and problems can be missed. It  is often the information that, if shared, workers feel will result in retaliation that often holds the most value to an organization’s leadership.
Whatever the reason the end result is the same. Information is not where it needs to be when it needs to be there. And in the case that information does get there, it is often not as the originator had intended  it to be.
What is needed is an information communication system that allows original messages to be passed along with value added feedback along the way. It needs to be transparent to all levels of the organization so it can be further developed along the way by the various viewers. The originators of situations need to remain anonymous when so desired and the communication kept confidential when it is prudent to do so.
The key in developing effective responses  is that the identification and description of situations need to be able to move quickly up the chain of command in original form. Much like the signal fires that would indicate to an ancient empire of invaders approaching the shores, the Situation Collection Postings will signal the relevant leadership and advise  of opportunities or threats both inside and outside of their organization.
Such a system would be a win-win-win. Leadership would have vastly increased awareness and information with which to make decisions. The organization would be much more transparent also as a result of open postings. Finally employees would feel like their feedback is valued and feelings of ownership and empowerment would increase as a result.
The Concept
A Situation Collection Post is the re-purposing of what are popularly known as Eisenhower Charts for the purposes of communicating situations. By taking situations and applying them to the four part grid according to their urgency and level of importance, we can prioritize them accordingly.
The concept calls for every employee to have access to a personal and a collective situation post for their functional area. This can be an automated post online, it can be a whiteboard in the office, etc.  As an employee becomes aware of and identifies a situation he/she will determine if the situation is best placed on their personal situation post or the collective one. Other employees  will be able to post a situation on your post should they feel it is relevant to you. This way if you feel that the situation is relevant to your supervisor you can place it accordingly on his/her post.
The collective situation post is used for those situations that need to be discussed or reviewed on a collective level. Regular meetings to review the situations on the collective post and develop possible responses should be held. By coming together on a regular basis to discuss the collective situation posts they can analyze, discuss, and assign for an individual situation. Situations posted can also be passed up to the next highest situation post. For example if the HR group has a situation they feel needs further higher level attention it is posted on the Administrative Situation Post. If the Administrative Leadership team feels it needs an even higher review it is again posted to the next level up.  Situations can be delegated by management to subordinates as long as the subordinate is able to respond in an acceptable manner to the situation.
When a situation has been posted in an area or with a decision maker where response can be formulated and  implemented then the situation remains on that post till resolution. This fluid exchange of situations both laterally and vertically within an organization ensures information gets to where it needs to go and quickly. Situations can be represented simply or in as much detail as desired as long as a uniform approach is taken across the organization. In other words a common format and a common language must be developed to maximize the effectiveness of this tool.
The speed at which situations are passed along or assigned is reinforced by Situation Awareness Meetings which go hand in hand with the posts. The key to this concept is that situations are moved around until the proper place is reached where it can be responded to. Once a situation is posted it is not removed until a response is developed and executed.
Situation posts can be monitored at all levels for accountability. I would even suggest that in a large organization a ticket number or similar can be assigned to each situation. Only when the ticketed situation has a connected response output  is it ok to remove that situation from the post.
1.     This can be implemented as practicable within your organization. If planning to implement this in one functional area just have a large whiteboard available in a common meeting area. In addition make sure each individual gets a personal whiteboard for their own use. Make sure the whiteboard is divided into the four grids indicating the level of importance and urgency.
2.     Establish a common format in which the situations will be posted. At the beginning you may wish to use sticky notes with a few sentences written to simply describe the situation. On the bottom of the situation post list the originator, if appropriate so people know who to go to for questions.
3.     Encourage and reinforce the use of thesesituation posts by visiting employees and asking them about some of thepostings on their board.
4.     Utilize the collective post as an agenda of sorts for group or team meetings since it will state the situations that need to be discussed. If a member brings up a situation, ask why it was not posted.
5.     Pay careful attention to your own post and ensure you respond appropriately to the situations on it. Nothing encourages participation better than seeing a leader reinforcing an initiative with their own involvement.
6.     Be sure that those situations which go beyond your ability to appropriately respond are converted or translated to a format that is actionable by the appropriate leader, if that leader is not currently utilizing the Situation Post.
7.     As other groups begin to adopt the Situation Post it will be easier to allow postings electronically. In a smaller company or setting the usage of whiteboards is an excellent way to utilize the tool. However the larger the number of employees the more efficient it will be to implement and utilize an electronic posting system.
Luffy Notes
A.    The more visibility situation collection posts are given the more likely they are to be used in a way that generates added value for communications.
B.     Use different formats for describing situations and see which one works best. Which one is most easily understood by the viewers and relevant parties?
C.     Ensure that recipients know who to contact to ask additional questions, or provide avenues for follow up the case of anonymity. This encourages discussion and can lead to a detailed and informative awareness of the situation.

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