Enterprise Information Management in the 21st Century

EIM in the age of Semantcs, Big Data, and Social Media

How a Starship Can Help Your Business

I’ve talked to a lot of people at a lot of different kinds of companies over the years. My clients have many issues in common – living in silos, technologists not understanding what the business needs, people in the weeds not seeing the big picture, etc. An underlying cause of a lot of these issues is a lack of quality communication – people talk, but they sometimes “aren’t speaking the same language.”
I have a weakness for metaphors, so I’m going to use one now – the voyages of the Starship Enterprise in the long-running Star Trek franchise. Here is a group of people from many walks of life (even alien to “Terran” species) on a mission that is probably the most loosely-defined mission possible – ” to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.”* However, the main thing the crew does better than anything is communicate. There is a precise method to official shipboard communication that allows everyone concerned to know exactly what is said, and take appropriate action. This is the thing that I feel is missing – the acceptance and use of a precise method of communicating within the business.
There are some organizations that employ precise communication, and their speech patterns are usually the subject of public derision – the military, hospitals, and air traffic control come to mind. The reason for their communication precision is obvious – they are dealing in situations where mistakes can cost lives. Most commercial businesses are not operating under that kind of pressure, but the efficiencies gained by adopting and practicing precise communication is undervalued, which is likely why it is not adopted. One notable exception to this is Starbucks Coffee – if you take a little time and listen to the crew communicating during a busy period, you’ll hear a relaxed but nonetheless precise language being spoken, and this allows the crew to work together smoothly. They are also parodied in popular culture, but I think they find it effective, and therefore reinforce and practice it daily.
How can your business benefit by more precise communication? I would wager that if you took a crew from a Starbucks store and dropped them into another store across town or even across the state, they could do their jobs just as efficiently as they do at their home store. However, people in similar roles in different lines of business within a large corporation likely would have an adjustment period where they could not do their jobs effectively because of differing systems or tools and different ways of communicating with constituent organizations.
Is your use of language holding your organization back from peak efficiency?
* – I always preferred the TNG version…

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