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SNHU - IT-520 Technical Communication
Written by: Chris Bell - September, 2015

Technical Communications Manager - Final Project - BOLDflash (Fictitious Company)



The international business processes within BOLDFlash are not well planned, discussed or managed. Each department is silo building because they are more concerned with their department than the company as a whole. The Director of Product Development wants to stop sending product documentation with each order because it's on the server. However that could create many problems and possibly more time, than simply including the documents in the first place. The Director of Sales wants to confirm shipments to customers that aren't yet confirmed from manufacturing. The Director of Marketing wants to send new product enhancements directly to manufacturing instead of testing them first because they believe it will save time. After reading the internal emails it is my quick assessment that each department has little trust in the other to perform certain tasks. As these problems persist silo building becomes a bigger concern to deal with than the original issue.

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SILO BUILDING


Sometimes large companies have large departments that lose focus of the bigger picture. They focus so intently within their area that they think they are the most important piece of the puzzle, or even the only piece of the puzzle. For example, instead of the sales people working closely with the manufacturing team to give customers expected delivery dates, silo builders blame manufacturing and believe it's worthless to have a conversation. Likewise, manufacturing departments blame sales people for giving quick turnaround dates. Without the marketing department the sales department would struggle, and without the sales department the manufacturing department would have very little work. Each department needs to be in close communication in order for the end result to be flawless. It should be the managers of each department that connect on a regular basis in order to lead their teams in the same direction. Then each department will have a common goal which is to satisfy the customer with the product they asked to receive.

INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS PRACTICES


I believe better technical communication needs to start here, with the leaders of each department. At first, they should start to meet weekly, on Mondays, to discuss the highest priority items for the week. While we work on better written communication it will be imperative that the directors communicate verbally and trust that each director will lead their team appropriately for the week.

Particular areas of concern are:

Removing Documentation


Removing documentation from the product package in manufacturing will change the process. An email was sent to the department heads, but there needs to be more because all of the assemblers may not understand the change. Production workers need to be trained on the new process before it begins. But there's a bigger problem, the Director of Product Development doesn't have a new process, instead the idea is to simply pull the current process. It's a poor attempt to correct their issues of communication between departments. The product documentation is an important part of manufacturing a quality product, so while it may save some time and paperwork, it could also create more errors.

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Confirming Orders


The Direct of Sales wants to confirm delivery dates to customers before hearing the confirmation from the manufacturing department. "If we don't hear back within 2 days, we'll assume the order is on time and confirm that to our customer", says the Director of Sales. It's another poor attempt to change a process that doesn't seem to be working based on communication. In order for a process to be changed there needs to be plenty of support data to prove that it's in fact broken. Not only that, there needs to be a better plan in place that replaces the previous process. Once the directors meet and agree to change the process, they each need to actively communicate it to their workers. They also need to train their workers and be excited when communicating the new idea. As it stands, the company director would probably blame another department head for changing the process and for forcing the workers to follow a new procedure. However, it can be exciting to change a broken process to one that works better and faster, and directors need to express the excitement to their workers as such. "Dear workers, our communication channel just got much better with the sales department! They worked hard on a new process that will help us get our information sooner and in a more organized manner."

Enhancements


The Director of Marketing saw that competitors are making enhancements to their product faster than BOLDFlash. Now the director wants to quickly add enhancements to our products and move them directly into manufacturing by skipping the testing phase. There are about one thousands reasons why that is completely wrong, but in order to focus on technical communication, the director needs a better plan of action that involves each of the department heads. Instead of quickly trying to repeat the competitor's enhancements, BOLDFlash could study and tweak their enhancements into something even better. Then updates can be explained to current customers by the sales department, so that they are excited to have the latest update in the industry.

Stakeholders that need to communicate more closely:

Not only do these stakeholders need to communicate more often, they need to communicate more effectively and efficiently. Their emails to one another show clear frustration with each department and fail to supply enough information about their objective. I have data to support that each of the directors tried to change a company process in a short email without a clear alternative process. Also, it appears within their emails to each other that they don't speak to each other often enough to understand where each department stands on a weekly basis.

BOLDFlash isn't a small company that has one employee completing all of the sales along with all of the marketing efforts. They are a large company that needs to communicate between each department or the end result will be a failure no matter which department is blamed. Customers don't care where the break down happened within BOLDFlash, they care about a quality product on time.

ESTABLISHED PRACTICES


I can see a clear chain of command that simply lacks a strong communication channel. Each of the departments blame the other instead of working towards a common goal together. They like to email each other to communicate but I'd like to include a video conference each week because emails can be cold and one-sided when written poorly. I want to build a better relationship between the directors so that they enjoy working together and communicating with one another. Video conferencing will be the first step in that direction. Furthermore, since there is so much blame and finger pointing at the present moment, I want each of the department heads to discuss 3 problems within their own department that are considered opportunities for improvement. Then give a clear plan to the others that define how they will achieve a better process. When they all meet again the next week they can provide progress reports of how their workers are complying and moving forward. Once each department head sees that the others are improving they will likely be on board to improve as well. No one wants to work hard for 40 hours each week just to have someone blame them for the poor work they did.

COMMUNICATION FRAMEWORK


At first, the framework for communication will revolve around teamwork between department heads, team projects and video conferencing. When things go wrong there are opportunities for improvement instead of an opportunity to punish someone. Continuous improvement is everlasting, it's never final because something can always be improved. Each department will start to document all of the problems that occur by filling out a report with an exact template. The nonconformity report will explain the problem, the root cause of the problem, and how the problem was handled with the customer or vendor. This process builds data that can be used to support changes in the future. For instance, if there are four nonconformity reports showing that we ordered material later than expected then we can use the data to develop a new process.

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Secondly, team meeting between the directors each Monday will assure that each department is on the same page. After the meeting, each director will be expected to relay the weekly goals to their workers, and the sales department will be instructed to follow up with customers with more exact delivery dates. My sales experience has proven that it's alright to send product a few days late if you tell the customer a week ahead of time, but it's not alright if you tell them they day after it was supposed to arrive. Once the delay is communicated effectively to the customer they have a week to reschedule their in-house timeline.

Lastly, the directors will not, for any reason, make changes to processes without consulting as a team first. They all need to understand together why the process is broken and how the new process will affect their department. Until the process is changed, each director needs to enforce the current process and show their employees that they believe in it. If all of the directors want to make changes, then it shouldn't take long to develop the support data over the next month that proves how and why the current process is broken. The root cause analysis of each nonconformity will lead them to a new process as a team.

CORRECTING PROBLEMS


The BOLDFlash departments are going to stop silo building and start communicating through video conferences that build team work. We are going to start encouraging more communication and better communication between each department because it's the first opportunity for improvement within the company. While that process becomes natural, and the departments stop finger pointing, and we can continue to build data that supports current problems because problems are opportunities for improvement. The goal of marketing employees is to get new customers, the goal of the sales department is to get orders from customers and the goal of manufacturing is to send quality products to customers on time. Each department needs to unite together as a team with a common goal of satisfying their customers. The customer doesn't want the sales person to blame the manufacturing department, the customer wants to hear the solution. "I don't care where the breakdown was, it doesn't help me. You can work on your internal problems after you get me my order!", says the customer.

BOLDFlash COMMUNICATION TRAINING


Since it has been determined that the root cause of BOLDFlash's problems are due to poor communication, we're going to train the staff how to communicate more effectively, how to collaborate between departments, and how to use technology to assist them in overall better communication. The process of communication is broken and needs to be addressed with training, even in the management positions. As the communications manager in charge of this project I plan to continuously bring the managers together to meet in person or through video conference. I want to build the relationships between departments so that they understand each other's struggles as if they are the same. Companies function well when broken into departments, but the departments need to help each other succeed as a company in unity.

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TRAINING PLAN:

  1. Communication

    • Seminars

    • Monday Meetings: Department managers communication between each other

    • Leaders: Inter-department communication with lower-level staff

  2. Collaboration

    • Team projects that involve staff from each department working together

    • Management meetings more often


  3. Training Methods

    • Train staff to communicate effectively through email and other sources

    • Set up Project Wikis that the staff can view and update regularly

    • Hold all staff members accountable for poor communication
  4. COMMUNICATION


    Training will begin with communication. For instance, a poorly written email could turn into a long trail of questions and answers which forces each person involved to spend more time on a single task. In 2015, we multitask due to expensive technology that allows us to. When a company spends money on these resources to be available the staff should use them and save time whenever possible. Well written emails, Wiki posts, Facebook posts and Twitter posts shouldn't leave the recipient confused in anyway. Each email should state the exact point that needs to be made along with answering the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How. Not only will better emails save time, they will leave less people confused with their responsibility to complete the task of the presented email.

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    Seminars


    There is a website, www.amanet.org, that offers communication training seminars, PDF's and videos that explain the importance of effective communication, and how to increase the staff's skills at writing precise emails to explain exactly what they need. The staff can also attend these meetings through video conference and will be expected to complete the training within a month. I plan to get serious quickly even though, at first, the staff will probably rebel against my ideas and plans.

    In order to appreciate each type of learning style and not force my personal techniques on the staff, I will allow them to each complete the courses in their preferred format. One staff member may want to read the PDF, one might want to watch the videos and a few might want to attend the seminar through video conference. I'll force the training seminar, but give three to four options of how to complete the course. That also allows the staff to complete the training during the time of their choosing.

    Monday Meetings


    I will be meeting with the department heads every Monday until I feel it can be biweekly. The plan will be to discuss the major projects in each department, deadlines, communication and problems. As problems persist and blame is placed, managers can begin to resent one another. Meeting in person, or face-to-face through video conference, will help build the necessary relationship between each department manager. Humans make mistakes, but they need to correct the mistake and work towards a plan that doesn't allow it to happen again. However, instead of pointing fingers, we first need to solve the problem for the customer. Later, we can dissect all of the collected data to determine the root cause of the problem and create a plan to be sure it doesn't happen a second time.

    The major projects will have a Wiki dedicated to it so that the managers and lower-level staff can see current updates that are set in stone. During the Monday meetings we'll make sure to discuss any changes to the project and give each manager "action items" to complete upon leaving the meeting. Peter Barron says to create action items after each meeting so that each employee remembers the meeting and takes notes (Barron, 2012). Employees without action items can relieve their mind of the meeting since there's no reason to remember anything. They may have to update the Wiki with new information or email their staff about a change to the project. However, changes will not be made unless all of the managers communicate first.

    The deadlines of each project will be discussed in more detail so that we can give customers more accurate delivery dates. Updates to the Wiki will may show that this particular customer wants their product as soon as possible or that the customer has requested quality above speed for a certain job. The additional lines of communication between the departments will help keep the staff on the same page and avoid individuals making decisions on their own.

    Finally, communication will be discussed in detail for the first few months of meetings. The managers need to lead by example and set the playing field for the rest of the staff. They will be forced to communicate with their staff through certain channels and update me as they increase their communication efficiency.

    Leaders


    Companies need leaders because lower-level staff looks up to managers for direction and clarity. The managers are leaders but I know they aren't acting like it based on the emails I read when I came to the company. When I was younger my mother always told me, "Think before you speak" and teachers always told me to, "Create a rough draft before you finalize anything." These simple pieces of advice get neglected over time so I need to incorporate them into my training process. Each manager needs to pre-write, write and rewrite (Gerson, 2014) their emails because it will allow them to send clear and precise messages to staff members. It will also stop numerous return emails with questions from confused staff which creates more work for everyone involved.

    COLLABORATION


    Communication will help collaboration throughout the company, however there are more things that can be done to increase collaboration such as working on projects in teams, involving staff members in the Wiki and in-person meetings. In can be difficult to think about the problems of another department when you have problems yourself, however we need to act like a single unit rather than four separate units that can't communicate between each other.

    Teamwork


    After our Monday meetings we're going to have action items that involve additional work. Each manager will be expected to pull together a few members of their respective staff for a project. The leader of the project will update the Wiki with the results when the mini-project is complete. The next project will involve different members of the staff until each member has been on at least one team. The object is to push teamwork, accountability and responsibility throughout the company. Believe it or not, employees may be initially jealous of those that get to participate in projects because it involves some discussions with management and awards them with brownie points.

    The Monday meetings will also create action items that create teams with individuals from multiple departments. This will continuously give each employee a glimpse of what it's like to be involved in a different department. As each of the employees slowly meet each other in different departments they will stop blaming each other and start helping each other. Also, by using members from each department, new ideas will come to light. As it stands, each employee has a one-track mind that rarely thinks outside the box due to years of working and being trained in the same department.


    TRAINING METHODS


    As I already stated, each manager will be required to complete the seminar in their own way. The seminar needs to be completed within a month to quickly enforce better communication throughout the company. After the managers take the seminar they will understand the importance of efficient communication and start leading by example. There are numerous training methods on www.amanet.org that can be completed on a monthly basis. The classes I took before I became the communications manager dawned light on how important it is to speak clearly and write precisely what you want to say.

    The managers will be expected to push the same type of training on their staff by sending them to communication seminars and holding them accountable for their communication methods. For instance, after taking a seminar, no member of the staff should blame another department on the project Wiki thread for everyone to see. As the training trickles down the line of command the entire company will be more organized, punctual and efficient.

    The actual training methods will be somewhat outsourced by using the website for seminars, videos, webinars and text-style PDF's. The managers will be required to report back with what they learned and how it will help them in the company. There are numerous videos and tutorials that help even the experts communicate better.

    TRAINING SUMMARY


    Communication is a big part of company success that employees need to be aware of aside from creating the product. Relationships are necessary to communicate with staff, customers, vendors, managers and lower-level staff. Likewise, communication is important for family growth with your spouse, kids, parents and in-laws. Companies succeed most when communication is strong and companies have failed specifically because of poor communication. In order to better the inner workings of BOLDFlash I will train the staff on better communication, collaboration and prove to them that training methods work. Then the managers will be better at leading by example and training their staff in the same way.

    BOLDFlash MOBILE DIVISION TRAINING


    Now that the BOLDFlash communications manager has decided to implement new forms of communication throughout the departments, it's time to begin training in each of the specific areas of communication that will alter the manager's daily routines. For instance, each of the department managers now have a scheduled meeting every Monday to discuss current and future operations within their respective departments. Another training item on the agenda is for each of the department managers to begin taking the online seminars that teach effective communication within the work place. Managers need to lead by example and these seminars will teach them to always speak and write effectively and I believe their staff will start to recognize it and follow suit. However, it will be my purpose as the communications manager to make sure the managers first speak to each other effectively because that process if broken. In order to further initiate effective communication throughout the entire company I will instruct each of the managers to begin training their staff by including them in a group Wiki. The managers will be discussing product details and asking for support from their respective staff, however they will be mainly looking for strong communication that shows they spend time writing their post.

    MONDAY MEETINGS


    The communications manager will document the minutes of the Monday meetings and collect the data to be reviewed at a later time. Once the data builds it will be reviewed to see which aspects of the meeting works best and worst. We'll also gather feedback from each of the managers involved in the meeting to determine their thoughts on the effectiveness of the meetings. In order to get feedback I will individually email each of the managers with specific questions to answer. That way they can speak freely about the meetings and relate it to how it will help them in their daily routine. It will be important to us that the managers understand this will be an ongoing training on communication that will be a continuous improvement initiative for the company.

    The collected data and feedback will be used to determine how long the meetings will last, or if they will be extended. For instance, if the meetings turn out to be effective there may be additional points that each of the managers want to make, so it's alright if we extend them for certain thoughts. Likewise, as the department managers become more involved in the process it will be important to let them play a role in improving the process in which we conduct the meetings. Department managers are far from entry level employees, so their thoughts and ideas will soon come to light when they see that additional communication is working. As the communications manager, it's not my job to tell them how to do their job, it's my job to help them communicate effectively and start to communicate seamlessly without my direction.

    We may decide as a team that the meetings can be pushed out to biweekly once the team starts communicating better between each other. These meetings will be focused on communication in part along with orders and product details, but meetings in the future will be for orders and products alone. Once the communication is united into a team effort we'll be able to discuss process and procedure issues later. As of right now, we've determined that most of the problems throughout the company are due to communication rather than process and procedure breakdowns, so we need to start here and see where it leads.

    SEMINARS


    The managers will begin taking the communication seminars immediately and report their results to me directly. I will ask each of them how the seminars are helping them communicate within the company and if they think it will be worth having the rest of the staff take the seminars as well. Furthermore, I will indirectly document changes that I see within the group of managers by monitoring the group emails for technical writing, punctuation and grammar. The seminars on www.amanet.org/ last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months at a time. They are designed to teach people how to communicate through email, phone, in meetings and through social media. Each device and website have a different format to write characters into words and into phrases. Some are meant for paragraphs while some are meant for a few words at a time. It's important to understand the difference before writing a post or email in a work environment. I believe this training procedure will be an important start of the new communication that will develop throughout BOLDFlash.

    The Monday meetings and the communication seminars will be the first training process that I will use to look for improvement. Any improvement will be noted and feedback will be used to determine how to improve even more. The company wide goal for myself is to create a chain reaction of solid and effective communication to the point where each employee enjoys writing an email that's free of errors and limits the amount of responses from recipients. For instance, if the company was answering 5000 emails per day I plan to lower that number to 4000 emails per day by training each of them to write effective emails the first. Then there will be less follow up questions for the staff to respond to.

    WIKI TRAINING


    The Wiki training is almost a trick to the staff, but I feel it's a strong training program that will get the communication skills of all the employees kicked off to a good start. For instance. The department manager will start a Wiki and send out and email that asks each of the staff members to write a post that shares their thoughts on a particular subject of a product. It will be in relation to their department and a current order that the company is working on, and the staff will be strictly instructed to form complete sentences and research before posting. The Wiki will resemble a typical online school's discussion board with threaded posts and responses. Not only will the Wiki increase discussions about the product details, it will also increase the staff's knowledge of the product through research, and it will increase their education level and their communication between each other within the company.

    I hope to start a bit of competition between the employees that makes them want to write better than the other. The competition will force each of them to spend more time on their posts and hopefully the process will bleed into the rest of the staff's daily communication such as emails and meetings. The training won't be complete in a few days, weeks or months. It will take time to review each of the employee's improvements and to work with each of them and their particular posts. However, as the company trains and gets better at writing effectively, it will benefit each of the departments and the company overall.

    This will be a big change for the staff to adapt to because it will be outside their normal realm of blaming each other for their problems. Instead I hope to unite the employees together by discussing products, orders, delivery dates and customer satisfaction amongst each other through the Wiki posts. I believe this training process will also prompt managers with a few stellar employees to promote easier than the normal process. The managers will be able to view many more employees within a single Wiki to determine how well they are performing, and possibly look into those employees more on a day-to-day basis.

    Conclusion


    Communication within BOLDFlash is going to change dramatically as we train the managers and use the managers to train their staff. Each of the training procedures above have long term goals of continuous improvement because we plan to collect data and use it to our advantage along the way. As we see communication improvements we'll take the next step in the training process of creating new processes and procedures. For instance, it's important that the staff communicates effectively before we try to implement new procedures because if the new procedures fail it could be due to poor communication again. As we improve communication we'll understand that it may have been the root cause of many of their problems which may little to very little procedures changes. With better communication the procedures could indeed be effective as they currently stand. Hopefully communication is the only breakdown of the company, but if it's not the other problems will quickly come to light when communication improves.

    Each of these training processes have duel purposes to get the employees more involved in day-to-day operations by showing their true colors. Some of the employees might slack when writing Wiki posts while others excel dramatically. Some employees might improve their communication skills through emails without being asked or forced while others might still use the old approach of poor grammar and punctuation. Some employees might utilize the online seminars more than others by taking additional tutorials without being forced. The goal of companies is to find stellar employees and promote them to use all of their possible skills and these training programs will bring many new employees to the eyes of the managers that would have normally been overlooked.


    References:


    Communication Training Seminar: . Retrieved from:
    http://www.amanet.org/training/seminars/communication-skills-training.aspx

    Barron, Peter (March 27, 2012). 10 Steps to Increase Cross Departmental Communication.. Retrieved from:
    http://www.employeeopinionsurveys.com/760/increase-cross-department-communication

    Gerson, J & Gerson, M (2014). Technical Communication: Process and Product (8th Edition).