Why is it important to
understand the elements of the flow of information in organisations, I hear you
Before I answer that, let’s highlight the two main types of information flows in organisations…
…Formal and informal information flows.
Formal information flow is impacted by the organisational structure, the way decisions are made and official documentation e.g. the company’s organisational chart.
Informal information flow happens apart from and despite the formal structure within the business e.g. information that flows within a smokers group or even the company choir.
Understanding how to use formal and informal information flows in the workplace will have a massive impact on your ability to get things done, get noticed and get ahead!
Let’s jump in and discover exactly how you can accomplish this…
5 Formal information flow benefits
Use your understanding of the way formal information, knowledge, communication and conversations flow to provide insight to:
#1 Understanding the correct source of required information
This ensures you communicate with the appropriate persons to obtain the information you need.
You save time, effort and reduce the risk of using incorrect information e.g meeting with the marketing representative team for marketing information and not the business analyst team who actually have the statistics you need.
#2 Prioritising the type of collaboration favoured
Using the correct level of collaboration will impact how you are perceived in the organisation and will help or hinder your ‘likability’ factor.
Likeability is an important trait to have when influencing others.
Lateral information flows tend to be more team-oriented as it is the collaboration that happens with your peers. Whereas, vertical information flows may focus more on the contribution of the individual.
#3 Identifying the span of control to scope buy-in
The flow of communication, knowledge and conversations are all an indication of the span of control in your company.
Is it wide or narrow?
Where the span of control is narrow, as is common in a tall or decentralised organisation structure, you may need broader buy-in for projects, due to the information having to flow to multiple areas of the business to gain consensus before a decision is made.
This will impact the lag time you must build into your projects and will determine whether or not you can achieve your deadlines.
#4 Choosing decision-makers correctly
Information flows will inform you about who the decision-makers are in the organisation and ensure you communicate and engage with the correct persons from the start.
This will give you faster access to the resources you need to get the job done.
#5 Accessing opportunities for promotion
This is impacted by how openly information and knowledge are shared.
Of course, there are many elements that makeup how suited you are to securing a promotion.
However, the more the company’s culture and structure support open information exchange, the more challenging it can be to differentiate yourself if you lack specialist knowledge.
Understanding the formal information flow within your company’s structure, will help you plan your projects more realistically, collaborate with the right people in the right way and determine the degree of consensus you need to progress at work.
Let’s look at the informal side of the flow of information and how you can leverage it to skyrocket ahead in the professional game.
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5 Informal information flow advantages
Use your understanding of the way informal information, knowledge, communication and conversations flow to provide insight to:
#1 Identifying the source of informal knowledge sharing
Knowing these ‘go-to people’ can help flatten your learning curve to understanding company's systems, policies, procedures, or just generally how things are done in the organisation.
#2 Getting buy-in from influencers on projects
Using information flows to identify who these people are and getting their buy-in can help gain acceptance to your project, that even though is lucrative, may be rejected otherwise.
#3 Increasing your reach
Knowing who the ‘great communicators’ are and establishing a professional relationship with these persons, you can instantly broaden your network through their connections.
This can give you access to industry-wide information, better ideas, and even future opportunities.
#4 Highlighting your hidden talents
By identifying the information flow source of specific groups that are lucrative to your success in the business world, you may be able to tap into your hidden talents, e.g. raising your professional profile by being part of the company choir.
#5 Building strategic alliances to be in the know
By identifying the information source of the people who seem to know what's happening in the company before anyone else, you will be in the know about the company's issues, so you can be proactive in eliminating threats e.g. searching for new opportunities due to planned but unannounced job cuts.
Ultimately, your ability to progress in most companies is not only down to your hard work, but also who acknowledges your hard work… BE VISIBLE.
Leverage the information flows in your organisation, both formal and informal, so the power is yours in how you choose to play the professional game.
... remember, stay curious and keep learning.
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