Leadership Tensions: Communication vs. Bureaucracy

How do you keep an organization organized?

How do you keep it running efficiently and effectively without losing personality or heart?

This is the leadership tension of communication vs. bureaucracy.

I believe that fast-growing organizations feel this tension the most.  With rapid addition of staff and the ever-changing dynamics that accompany growth, leaders find themselves swimming in a sea of confusion.  Reporting lines need to be clarified.  Communication systems need to be over-hauled.  A sense of order needs to be established to keep the ship from sinking.

And that’s where the tension comes in.   Typically leaders either ignore the problem or they go to the other extreme and over-compensate.

Leaders who like the casual, laid back atmosphere of a small team will resist systems and structure for fear that it will make them too “corporate”.

Leaders who are terrified by the lack of order, will react by creating too may strict policies and tightly controlled systems.

When you’re struggling for a sense of order, it’s rarely solved by more bureaucracy.  To create more order, you have to create better systems for communication.

While systems for communication might include tools that enable the communication, the key is teaching your team to embrace the spirit of communication:

Who needs to know?

What do they need to know?

When do they need to know it?

These are the three questions that you need to teach your team to ask.  This must become your subconscious reaction to every action you and your team take.

Communication is the life-blood of an organization.  Poor communication results in mistrust and mistakes.  Great communication creates efficiency and healthy working relationships.

There is a phrase that says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”  If that is true (and I believe that it is), I would submit that the follow up to that is, “Leadership rises or falls on communication.”

Creating more structure (bureaucracy) won’t fix your organizational problems, unless that structure is created to support your communication needs.

Where is your team struggling?

What steps could you take to improve communication within your team?