A successful cascade of positively delivered communication generates discussion and encourages action. The structure of local Scouting provides the ideal framework to create a planned communication cascade.
We meet three Scouting managers keen to keep the communications flowing; keeping everyone informed and giving people the opportunity to make a positive contribution to Scouting.
Suzanne Ford is a Group Scout Leader with a busy schedule and a keen active Scout Group. Suzanne is convinced that taking messages, making them relevant to an audience and delivering them in a relevant way ensures they are believed, clearly understood and acted upon, ‘I critically assess the information I receive and pass it onto to the Leaders or the Group Executive Committee. I make sure each person is emailed or spoken to, and depending on timing hold some back to discuss within a meeting. I have a couple of leaders who do not check their emails so I text them to come back to me. People feel involved if they are given relevant information and more likely to share information too, creating a team environment with an open and honest approach.’
District Commissioner Kylie Birch understands that a key task of the Scouting manager is to keep communication flowing, ‘For communication to be effective I consider what is being delivered, who the recipient is and the deadline for any action to be taken. I also need to take into account their personal preferences. Not all my Group Scout Leaders use Facebook so it would be pointless trying to use that as a means of communication with them.’
Louise Clover who leads 1st Fenstanton & Hilton Scout Group helped tackle her communication process by researching the leadership and parents' needs to introduce a paperless system. ‘There is no one size fits all approach to Group communications. We wanted to ensure information was shared and to use less paper. With advance notice we discussed and approved the idea at our AGM with the proviso that a family joining without internet access would buddy up with one who did. It was swiftly accepted and parents / young people can still ignore our communications - but that's their choice and not our lack of effort.’
Take a look at your local circumstances and think about how to develop your process. Use these tips to create a process that ensures your messages are made relevant, believed, clearly understood and acted upon.
Take time to identify your audience, decide how frequently you want to update, and create a plan for how you will engage with this audience on an ongoing basis. To start the process, brief managers first to ensure there is the time for them to digest the information, ask questions for clarity and give them time to prepare answers before the information is cascaded. While email and web content are great ways to transmit some messages in a timely manner, many require a personal approach. Decide which channel fits which message. The more emotional the message, or its potential response, the more likely it is that face-to-face will be the best process.
You can achieve so much more face-to-face that you could via email, web content or printed materials. People prefer communications direct from their immediate manager. A frequent face-to-face meeting is the ideal format for the cascade process. If you are holding a meeting, ensure it encourages people to ask questions and the venue is relaxed enough to facilitate this. Encourage individuals to take notes during the meeting, in addition your reference notes.
At every stage of a cascade it is important that those delivering the message are clear and confident of what information needs to be cascaded. Consider the most appropriate tone that puts the message into context for the group of people involved. Be positive but honest with challenging messages and use local examples to assist in putting a message into context. Recipients need to come away with insights as well as facts so telling people "why, how, and where” they fit into this message rather than "what" will help them more.
Consider body language during face-to-face delivery. Finger pointing, fist pounding and big gestures can be seen as aggressive, while smiling too much, looking at the floor and wringing your hands will be seen as uncertain and indecisive. Help the receiver understand the message by reiterating why they are getting the information, why they should care and what it means to them.
Don’t make the communication a one-way process. Encourage people to ask questions about the message and allow them to understand how they fit into this. Get people to ask questions while you communicate the message rather than interact at the end and out of context. Give people your full attention, listen, take on board concerns and discuss ideas. Gather feedback as soon as possible and ask people what they view as the most important parts covered, what wasn’t understood, what they disagree with and what else they want to know.
Encourage people to own the message and undertake an action. Look at ways in which people need to engage with the message. Make it clear what is expected from your audience and whether a particular action is required from them, or that the message is just information and no further action is required.