Employees at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center would often complain that they didn’t know what was happening across the 7,500 employee center. They felt left in the dark while management was frustrated that the employees wouldn’t read their emails. Each morning an email was sent to all employees and contractors. The email contained links to an intranet where notices, the days activities, and upcoming events were kept.
To post an announcement a person had to write up the information and email it to their manager. The manager would email it to an organizational approver. This person would email it to a general email account where one person would review it and edit it, another person would review it and approve it, and then it would be passed on to a web programmer to create a new web page in HTML.
Unfortunately, the majority of employees viewed the email as spam and many had a rule to automatically delete it when it came in. The culture was to put the accountability upon management to communicate to the employees with little accountability on the employees. Because of this the Center was littered with posters, banners, TV screens and every other imaginable way to communicate. Many halls contained multiple large posters to announce information.
Because of this way of communicating there were many employees who were disengaged from the important information that all employees needed to know, and they were upset about the lack of communication.
The need was to:
– Communicate in a way the employees would want to consume the information.
– Put the accountability to be notified upon the employees.
– Streamline the announcement approval process.
I led a team to revamp the way the center communicated. After an ethnographic study we identified the best ways to achieve these goals.
We allowed the employees to post their information on a central collaborative network. On the home page we created a stream of announcements that employees felt were important for all to see. The approval process was replaced by a single person periodically reviewing this stream. The communications department was given a rotating header of official announcements on the top of the home page.
Employees were told that the email was no longer going to be sent out. If they wanted information it was their responsibility to get it from the front of this network or sign up for email notifications from the network. Of course there were those who grumbled, but they quickly became accustomed to receiving their information this way.
-A process that collectively took hours to create a single message was replaced by a process that took a few minutes at most.
-Employees were now able to find information on demand, and they were held accountable to “be in the know.”
-Because most of the employees were using the collaborative network already, it was easy for them to make the switch.
-Employees were more engaged with the center as a whole and were up-to-date on center messaging.