In my September 20, 2011 blog post, I presented a scenario about communication silos from my new Photo_44487_20110601 book, Communication in High Performance Organizations: Principles and Best Practices, and invited readers to submit possible solutions. The scenario is this:

Bill Smith, VP of Sales at High Tech Inc, and his leadership team, had gathered feedback from customers and concluded that the sales department needed a major reorganization. Customers were complaining that they were no longer receiving the customized solutions they had come to expect from High Tech Inc.  

Originally, the department had been regionally-focused, with U.S., China, and India sales offices providing services to all industries, types, and sizes in their specific regions.  This strategy had been extremely effective during the past ten years as High Tech Inc was perfectly positioned to take full advantage of the rapid regional growth in the computer industry. However, new entrants into the market had increased competition making the old structure no longer effective. 

Based on the customer feedback, Bill and his team determined that there was a clear need for change.  They decided that the structure that would enable High Tech to compete most effectively was to change from five U.S. regionally-focused sales offices and two global offices (China and India) to one centralized office with salespeople dedicated to particular industries and sizes of companies. They also understood the magnitude of this change and potential impact it would have throughout High Tech. To make a change of this size, Bill and his team would need company-wide support.

Paul Angileri submitted a lengthy comment that deserves it's own blog post. He writes:

Hi Stephen. I definitely wanted to make sure I revisited this. The fairly obvious problem I'm seeing is that individuals not local to the location of the proposed new central site would either have to relocate, or move on. Being sales professionals, perhaps this is not as big an issue as it seems, and "comes with the territory". I think the task ahead of Bill is for him to make the company feel like a tight, interknit whole. A change of this apparent magnitude can send people running to update their resumes, and potentially cause some brain drain as an after effect. Bill should be open in communicating the situation, let everyone know that jobs are not be "re-org'd" in any way, and that the move will strengthen internal bonds.

I think Bill can also create some buy-in by having each site participate actively in the plan to move to the achieve the intended ends. But without doubt, the internal culture will have to change to accommodate the new way of doing business. Bill may have some work to do in getting the internal culture to adopt new communication habits, powered by new tools. He needs to get employees thinking about communication differently, and start by treating sales as a global organization with individuals responsible for certain global regions, rather than a group of groups, who each have their own sphere of responsibility.

In my past experience, I cannot recall any situation that had similar element as this thought experiment. There is one case where a portion of a business was consolidating a particular business-sensitive operation into one or two sites, and existing global sites saw a change, but that change was largely procedural, with only one or two closings of minor facilities. That change was fairly aggressive in its schedule, but was an obvious win for the company because of waste in the system with respect to product shipments. Anyone whose job was affected more than likely was at least offered the opportunity to join a different team at another local or global site. I'm not sure if you were looking for specific PI solutions to this question, but the above is where I see things, generally speaking.

Paul's response to the scenario empasizes the importance of open and honest communication amd involving stakeholders in the decisions. Also, his response points out the importance of changing the culture, not simply increasing the amount of and direction of communication.

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