Sharing Information

April 26th, 2011

“You need to share”. Most of us have heard these words from an early age coming out of our mother’s mouth or maybe from our kindergarten teacher.  We may even pass these words on to our kids as we see them become self-centered or selfish.  It must have sunk into my psyche – because I still operate in an open manner.

If you have read my articles in the past then you know that I always encourage CAD Managers and BIM Managers to share information freely with everyone in their firm.  I stress how hoarding information can damage your firm and your credibility.  What I would like to “share” now is some advice on how the sharing may take place.

Content - what to share

Obviously you should share any and all knowledge you have that end users need.  This includes tips and tricks, how to lessons, and tutorials.  You main job is to make these users more productive, not to make yourself look smarter than them.  Share good blogs and podcasts.  Share upcoming webinars from resellers.  Push as much information as you can out to the workers who produce your firm's design output. 

Share how to fix things like plotters and printers.  Show users how to load the paper and change the toner.  Help them learn to use the fax machine (still using those?).  Make sure they know who to contact in a pinch.  If you are going to be out of the office, make sure they know who to contact.  NOTE: When you return, remind them to resume contacting you directly.  They will tend to want to make the direct call even when you are there.

You should not share information that is focused only on your job functions because, if misused, this could compromise data security.  Don’t share passwords, file locations that are not needed, how to edit the firm’s global profiles and menus, and so on.  You may share some of this with key users who have proven they can be trusted, but not with those who seem to use it to work around you.

Information that is appropriate to share should freely flow to everyone who will listen and apply it.  Managers have a foot in two camps—they stand between senior management and the front-line workers. So, yes, share information about the general direction of the company, but don't share private management issues that come to your attention.  For example, if you know that a work slowdown will cause reductions in staff, that is not something that should be broadly shared.  You are part of management and not a line worker.   Don’t share negative opinions of other managers or the firm with the troops.

Method - How to share it

There are several ways that sharing may happen.  Here are a few:

Investigating:  This is used when you need to find out if an idea has merit.  You float some trial balloons to see what the reactions are.  You might say, “It may not work, but what if we…?”  This will spark some back and forth chats that can quickly uncover whether an idea is worth pursuing.

Explaining:   This is used when you have to convey information about a decision and its outcome.  The point is to gain acceptance and concurrence with the objective.  It gets everyone working on the same goal.  Explaining includes providing background information and what framed the decision.

Conversing:  This is just the general back and forth among those involved.  It requires that you keep the conversation going.  If someone makes a statement, ask for clarification (e.g., “Can you be more specific?”) If they make a comment, ask what motivated them to make the comment (e.g., “Oh really?  Why is that?”).

Updating:  This is when you circle back to those who may have been involved with an initial conversation and things have changed since then.  This is an area that needs constant attention.  Too many times I have failed to do this and have people say, “You never let me know that things have changed.”

Defending:  Sometimes you have to flat-out defend the direction you are taking.  This is akin to Explaining but it becomes defending when the listeners have turned away from your original explanations and are now speaking against your point of view.

Medium – delivering the message

Speaking is the first and often most importance medium for sharing.  Just talking to people may be the best and most effective way to deliver any message.  It amazes me how people—including myself—avoid doing this.  We choose to send email, texts, voicemails, memos, and the like, and expect them to deliver the message completely.  

Face-to-face conversations are best.  You can read reactions and unspoken hints about what the person might be thinking.  You can see the responses to your questions or comments.  You can look for signs of agreement or disagreement. When you get the chance, try to speak directly to all the major stakeholders affected by the outcome of any decision or process you are contemplating.

Writing is next and will take on a personality of its own.  Trying to write down some things convinces you to just go talk to people.  Trying to get everything explained in writing can expand a document to the point where no one will read it.  It is a delicate balance. Some documents are created to communicate and some are created to memorialize decisions.  Knowing the difference will define the content.  Communication docs need to be concise and to the point.  Memorial docs need to cover all the nuances of the content that may need to be known.

How much it too much?  Think about your audience when writing.  The farther up the corporate ladder they are, the shorter the doc needs to be.  It is not that they have short attention spans (some might), but they have short timeframes for decision making.  The closer to the hands-on, the more info they will want.  Don’t try to cram every last word in; try to write for effectiveness.  The point is to gain agreement, not to exhaust the subject. 

So sharing with others is something you need to do.  Doing it all the time in the right way will assist your efforts to create an open, creative environment.

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About the Authors

Mark Kiker

Mark Kiker has more than 25 years of hands-on experience with technology. He is fully versed in every area of management from deployment planning, installation, and configuration to training and strategic planning.  As an internationally known speaker and writer, he is a returning speaker at Autodesk University since 1996.Mark is currently serving as Director of IT for SIATech, a non-profit public charter high school focused on dropout recovery. He maintains two blog sites, www.caddmanager.com and www.bimmanager.com.

 

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