As a trainer at the Army's National Training Center, I would experience this more times than I can remember: Information that could change the course of a battle would be reported to someone in the command post (the nerve center for a military unit). But instead of sharing this information with the commander or anyone else who might do something with this information, it was simply logged in, posted on a map, or otherwise disregarded by the recipient (usually some junior radioman with only a few months in the unit!). This information could have changed the course of the battle...if only someone else knew about it.
Walk into many command posts in the Army and you will see the following sign posted over the map, near the radio, and over the computers: "Who Else Needs To Know?" It is a reminder that someone, somewhere likely can find an advantage from knowing what you know. Perhaps the commander, an adjacent unit, or your higher headquarters would benefit from this information. Perhaps one of the subordinate units conducting missions would be able to do something with this piece of data. But it does no one any good simply entered into a log or sitting in an inbox. Telling just one person can be the difference between victory and defeat. Who else needs to know?
I have encouraged my own team to post this on the top of their computer monitors. It is a good reminder that we need to constantly be reminded of the importance of sharing information.
As I think about times where I have really had my butt chewed (usually rightly so...as was the case recently...ouch!), it is for this shortcoming. We take action and fail to coordinate. We don't tell our partners, stakeholders, or higher headquarters what we are doing -- and it comes back to bite us. We fail to report, provide late or incomplete information, or miss a suspense without letting someone know -- and it may cost us the battle (or at least a couple of pounds off the backside)!
-- Airplanes not meeting inspection schedules? Who else needs to know?
-- Having problems with a supplier? Who else needs to know?
-- Not going to meet a quarterly goal? Who else needs to know?
-- Getting ready to make a major announcement or take an initiative? Who else needs to know?
-- Sitting on some bad news that may have impacts beyond just your project, or your little piece of the company? Who else needs to know?
As I indicated, I was reminded of this critical leadership lesson quite recently. It's probably worth sharing. This simple statement is the key to open, transparent, consistent communication and it produces the common operational picture that enables successful decision making. Who else needs to know? Up, down, left, right? This is how battles are won. This is Leader Business.
Image Courtesy of http://www.devon.gov.uk/