Here are two cascading questions you can ask about your organization:
Do you choose what is popular or what is best? Take for instance somebody trying to decide on what mp3 they should purchase. Often people will go for the same mp3 player that everybody else has, because they have little knowledge of what is actually the best mp3 player. They rely on information from friends and observing what is the most popular mp3 player with others. The buyer is led to believe that if everybody else owns this mp3 player and says it is the best then it must be the best. However, this information is not always necessarily correct and another less popular mp3 player could actually be the best.
In both instances, the cascade replaces intelligent handling of information. I’m sure your organization does not have a management herd and wants the best.
So, stop cascading now!
Break down the information hierarchy: Information was about power because it referenced the position you had in the hierarchy. To know something was a way to show you had power, and whom you shared it with demonstrated power relations. To let someone in on the secret was a way of showing you had greater power. This is all very much a top-down approach to communicating. Infusion creates a communication process that promotes sharing and a healthy flow of information throughout your organization.
Information is not power: Sharing is power! Linked to hierarchy, the currency of communications is information, and this was traded on a need to know basis. The beloved maxim of past ages was information is power, and so power was held rather than spread. The exercise of communication was akin to a command and control approach, as organizations sought to control the message and the spread of information to maintain command over events. Towards the end of the 20th Century the shift was to information cascades and this idea still persists today, but in truth it is still old style communications thinking.
Cascade is Poor Process: However well-intentioned the idea of cascade as a means to spread information, leadership and managers in fact often end up creating blockages. What an organization does is a process along the following lines:
• Internal communications manager gets told “We need a Campaign” for employees
• They figure out a campaign to show how “we care”
• Launches the campaign telling them “we care”
• “Cascades” the campaign down the organization
And the result? Surprise! Surprise! It doesn’t work, it breeds cynicism. Employees are flooded by initiatives, programmes, inspirational messages and the like, expertly generated by the communications function but somewhat lacking in merit.
Do you still want to cascade? Or do you want to engage, infuse and enthuse your internal audiences?
Start thinking infusion!
Think how tea infuses. Now close your eyes and think of communication working through infusion throughout your organization, get the image?
Infusion offers a more dynamic way of thinking about your communications. Infusion recognizes how successful communication within an organization is ‘up, down and across’ and requires active engagement at all levels and in all directions. This is why I call this process “infusion.” So from here on whenever you see or hear the word “cascade” in internal communications insist on replacing it with “infusion”!