Communication is fundamental to good product management

Information, communication and alignment

Alignment of people and teams in an organisation seems directly proportional to how information about things like strategic priorities is communicated. And at first glance it looks like a goldilocks problem; too much communication and people get information overload, not enough communication and people don’t know what is going on. Either extreme diminishes alignment, and so the solution seems to be to communicate just enough.

But perhaps it isn’t a question of quantity. I think the solution might be more to do with how information flows rather than how much is communicated. If information only flows vertically through a hierarchy, and relies on the skills and actions of an individual to pass on information then two things occur, bottlenecks and interpretation. These slow down the flow of information and change the message, resulting in different people across the organisation getting different information at different times, even if they started with the same information.

Networks that allow information to flow more freely through multiple routes speed up the transmission of the message and allow the same people to receive multiple interpretations and so question the message to reach a more well-rounded understanding. Networks don’t rely on a one-way flow of information, which means that rather than alignment being the result of compliance with a single person’s or small group’s vision it is something that emerges from the collective communication across everyone in the organisation. Power can be hierarchical in an organisation with communication having to follow the same structure.