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Saturday, October 09, 2010

Inform and being informed

When I did my MBA way back in 1996, one of the things that I learned was the importance of information availability in an organisation. Accurate information provided timely, effectively and efficiently to staff members would help in avoiding speculations and uncertainties. Information flow from the management to the staff also increases transparency in the organisation. At the same time, members in the organisation will also be able to give feedback and input. Not all things that come from the top is the best option. Unfortunately, many at the top tend to forget or ignore this fact.

Information in an organisation can be disseminated and discussed with ease in regularly scheduled meetings. When meetings are rarely done, people do not know what is being planned and implemented. Again this can lead to speculations and uncertainties. One of the most cherished experience I have is when I was serving the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (IKIM). I joined in 1998, and with my promotion in 2000, I began attending the Management Meeting which was scheduled monthly. Despite his very busy schedule, the then-Chairman, Tan Sri (now Tun) Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid never failed to chair these management meetings. The meetings would start promptly at 9:00 a.m. and will take about three hours or so. Many things are discussed and threshed out efficiently. As an experienced person in administration, he managed the meetings according to the agenda and minutes, never straying away into non-related matters. He was always punctual. (As a side note, I believe punctuality is a sign of quality of a person's leadership skill).

Some people regard meetings as a waste of time. In my humble opinion, meetings are a waste of time only when the person chairing them do not manage the meetings well. Also, it will not help if a decision made in a meeting can be overturned outside the meeting. If this happens, then there is no point having a meeting. Nevertheless, meetings are important to organisations. Failure to have them at regular intervals would result in the breakdown of information flow.

Another way to disseminate information is to send e-mails to members in the organisation. As a student and part-time lecturer at Universiti Malaya, I notice that the current Vice Chancellor is very good at this. He would send e-mails to notify on new measures or policies, as well as to congratulate members of the university who have done well in research (to take an example). His messages can also be found on his Facebook page as well as the university's Facebook page.

So, really there is no reason for breakdown of information in this day and age. The avenue for dissemination is there, whether the more traditional form of having meetings, or the more modern form of utilising information and communication technology. It is unfortunate if, even with all these means, information breakdown still takes place. To me, there is no such thing as privileged information in this era of the open sky, in particular when it comes to running an organisation.

The success of an organisation hinges on informed decisions being made transparently, and the success of disseminating information to staff members. As an analogy, if an organisation is likened to the human body, just imagine what happens when the brain fails to communicate with the rest of the body. No matter how powerful or good the brain is, if the rest of the body does not function as a result of failure in communication, then the body itself will eventually fail.

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