One of the first lessons every parent teaches their child is to share with others. Humans don’t start out sharing as a natural behavior, probably due to the scarcity of resources when we were still living in caves and bashing rabbits with rocks for our meals, but our society now tells us that we live in a time of abundance and we should share our stuff with others. In fact, generally speaking, the larger the organization, the less sharing typically takes place.
What we are talking about specifically is sharing of information. We see this all the time, at all levels. The sales team doesn’t share competitor information with marketing or product. Marketing doesn’t share promotions with operations. IT doesn’t share with customer service, HR doesn’t share with strategy and executives don’t share anything. To be fair, most companies haven’t made it easy to share or created an environment that encourages this, but the ones that have are seeing much more success than those that haven’t.
I was reminded of this yesterday when I went to a national sports outlet to exchange an item. I had no receipt, but the item was clearly defective and I had just purchased it five days earlier. I just wanted a non-broken item and figured they could look up my receipt through my credit card and I would be out of there quickly. After 30 minutes, four sales clerks and several phone calls I walked out with what I came for. I couldn’t help but think that if an executive for this company went through this process, this is not what they would expect for a service interaction. But I don’t blame the local sales reps for this as this is clearly a communication issue between the corporate office and the local branch. I guarantee that this kid working the register couldn’t relay his company’s values back to me, or recite their mission statement. If he knew these things, he would have some guideline for how to act. It was apparent to me however that he had very little to fall back on, and this seemed like a simple resolution as well.
The most successful organizations not only share information, but have a culture that encourages this making it unnecessary to even think about an action, instead it is just organic. These organizations have all its people acting as one, which make them very tough competitors. Any useful information that comes in at any level, is immediately shared with the appropriate area inside the company. Not because of policy, but rather it’s making the company better and there will be feedback on the results of every piece of data coming into the system. In this type of organization, the sales team not only shares competitor information with CI or strategy, but they know what information is relevant, why it’s relevant and how to take a small clue and get just a little more information. The executive team shares strategy, financial metrics and future vision with everyone and everyone knows what the company is trying to do and how it plans on doing it. There are simple methods or electronic processes in place to make this a simple part of everyone’s job and most importantly, there is a culture in place that rewards this behavior. This sounds easy to do, but if your organization has never done it, then its a difficult task to shift to a sharing culture. Creating this culture takes time, but once it begins to take hold the value will be recognized across the organization and it will become a natural part of everyone’s job.