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Manage Communication to Add Value

By Robert F. Abbott

Management guru Tom Peters says white collar workers and managers in functional departments need to protect their futures.

They have to learn "the difference between doing totally acceptable work and creating very new value...." he notes, in an Industry Week article. In other words, people in departments like Human Resources and Finance need to become entrepreneurial.

With that in mind, let's look at three ways you can use communication to add new value, whether you work in a functional department or not.

First, every department of every organization generates unique information. That comes from being astride several communication flows that come together in one office or area.

Information flows in from suppliers, from staff, and from other stakeholders. For example, people in your department read trade magazines, they attend seminars, they're in touch with people in other departments, and they may belong to trade associations.

If your department consciously gathers, sifts, analyzes, and organizes that information - formally or informally - then it's creating new value. It's now more than just information: it's business intelligence, information with added value. That's what we refer to as generating new information.

Moving to the idea of condensing information, one striking characteristic of modern communication is the amount of it moving around. No doubt you've heard references to information overload, an all too real problem for those whose work life revolves around information.

You can add value by monitoring the information that comes into your office and selecting just the critical parts. Movie director Alfred Hitchcock put it this way, "Drama is life with the dull bits cut out." That's probably not a bad way of thinking about the condensing of information.

You can also summarize. Rather than distributing selected bits of information, you can write an abstract that captures the key data or ideas and reduces the load to manageable size for others. That's great added-value for senior managers who need overviews, rather than details. Many internal newsletters earn their keep by providing regular summaries of useful information. That information can come from outside the organization or from within.

Third, there's other side of the same coin, which involves expanding, rather than condensing, information.

One way to do this is by providing context. Consider, for example, any current issue that gets high profile treatment. Can you take the information you have, and then provide background that helps others make sense of it? You might bring in additional information that provides a brief history, the current opportunities and threats, and some possible directions for the future, along with their implications.

You might also expand information by making connections to issues that don't seem to affect your organization. For example, suppose your factory serves only the domestic market, so globalization seems irrelevant for at least the near future. But, what if you could explain how changes to tariffs would allow you to buy your raw materials at lower prices?

In summary, you can add value to existing information by turning it into business intelligence, condensing it, or expanding it. All approaches may use the same material, but manage it differently, to satisfy different needs.

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