Improve Your Team’s Information Flow

25 Mar

There are two basic models for how information gets to the people who need it: Push and Pull.

Push

The push model is where the owner of the information contacts and shares it with those who need it. The information can be shared corporately (in a meeting) or individually (email, hallway conversation). It places more responsibility on the information owner, as he/she needs to be fairly knowledgable about what each team member does and needs in order to get the right information to the right person on time. It is essential in situations where your team is very small and things are happening in real-time. For example, if I learn that my pastor is going to invite a guest on stage with him in the greeting (which begins in 30 seconds), I quickly determine that this affects audio, lighting and video and use my com system to immediately pass that information along to those people so that they can prepare for this audible.

In a project environment, however, this model has serious shortcomings.

  • It assumes that the information owner passes on the right information. How often have you needed info that someone else had, but they didn’t know you needed it?
  • It assumes that the receiver didn’t miss any details. (“I said that!” “No you didn’t!”)
  • It is hard to keep updated. Making sure everyone has the newest copy of things is problematic. Each time that changes are made, this info must be pushed to everyone who needs it. Again, this can be done verbally or by memos or emails, however your team works. It’s still push.
  • It places a high burden on the information owner to figure out who needs what info and to make sure it gets to the team.
  • It can foster a ‘turf war’ mentality because people are controlling the flow the information that they have.
  • It can easily create feelings of frustration from team members who need information, but can’t get it – either because the information owner is not available (in meetings, on vacation) or the owner may not realize that others need the information.


  • Pull

    Pull is when all project information is put in an central location and then those who need information can go there and retrieve what they need. The location can be physical or virtual, as long as all team members can easily access it. An old school example of this would be a theatre call board. The stage manager would post information by a specific time each day and all cast and crew would check the call board each day. Notices include changed call times, rehearsal room assignments, costuming notes, etc. If it was on the call board, you were responsible for the information. The internet makes this method available to us all and in a project environment is a far superior method for the distribution of information. There are a myriad of tools: Google Groups which is free but has limited features or Basecamp which is fee based but has a great list of features are just two examples. Planning Center (which most of you already use) is an outstanding example of a Pull system. You put the information out there and anyone who needs it has access.

    The Pull system has is downsides – if you used meetings as team building time, you will need to be more creative as meetings become unnecessary for the exchange of information. It also gives a level of ownership and responsibility to people who may not be accustomed to having it and that may be a learning curve as you move from one method to the other. However, the upsides to a Pull system are many.

  • The burden of information management is equally shared between owners and retrievers. If you own information, you post it. If you need information, you retrieve it.
  • All information is available to all parties. You get to decide what information you need to do your job well.
  • There are less misunderstandings and missed information when it is all posted and all parties can easily review what’s been shared.
  • It is easily updated when there is only one place that fresh information is kept. Everyone is always on the same page.
  • Collaboration is easier when all parties know what’s going on project wide.


  • I would urge you to look at how information flows in your team. If you are still using a push system, consider making the shift to a pull system. It empowers team members, creates less burden on leaders and once fully implemented, will lead you to a more cohesive, highly functional team.

    Advertisements

    One Response to “Improve Your Team’s Information Flow”

    1. Eric Wolfe March 25, 2011 at 10:55 am #

      Great post Sandi! Everyone in production should consider this paradigm shift.

    Leave a Reply

    Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

    WordPress.com Logo

    You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

    Twitter picture

    You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

    Facebook photo

    You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

    Google+ photo

    You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

    Connecting to %s

    %d bloggers like this: