How China Changed My World

China Trip Simply Confirm Mark Stern

Synopsis: A month spent out of pocket and without effective communications exacerbates issues of project management and coordination, leading to productivity loss and diffusion of personal responsibility. Highlights the universal business need to quickly and simply confirm messages are received, read and understood and that individuals and team deadlines are on target.

Effective and efficient communication – it’s an art, a science and a source of continuous frustration and difficulty for businesses and managers.

You think you’ve told your team what they need to know to undertake projects in the short or long term, but that’s not what they’ve heard or understood. Whether you’ve got staff ensconced in one facility or spread out across various branches throughout the country and the world: Some people need more feedback, some less, but everyone needs to jump on the same page and work together to get the job done!

A bit about my background: I’m a tech entrepreneur and angel investor with more than three decades of experience building and managing businesses from the ground up.

I’ve personally seen a lot of bad stuff happen as a result of poor internal communications when I’ve had to step out of pocket for a while and hit the road for business.

So, in my late 20s I have a vertical technology and manufacturing company with under 200 employees, and I need to go away for three weeks. My management style at the time – a relatively common one – involved a lot of walking around the office and keeping an eye on things. The basic idea is: You want people working and you want to go to them to ask questions and discuss and not vice versa.

I’d received an invitation from China’s Ministry of Metals to introduce our product throughout China. There’s no way I can pass this opportunity up, but the problem is, when I get to China, my only way to communicate with my team back home will be by teletype. It’s the 1980s, so no wi-fi, no cell phone, hell, no telephone, just this pre-historic typing format.

Before I leave, I gather everyone in a room and lay out my plan for the month: Here’s what to do with backlog, the orders coming in, battery testing, etc. Please don’t fight and everyone everyone get along, I tell them.

To my surprise, things went terribly in my absence. The complicated process of integrating all of the electronics and software, of testing and quality assurance and finally, most importantly, making sure our customers were completely satisfied, required intricate coordination of the team.

When that process broke down, people wouldn’t take responsibility, and identifying what went wrong became a daunting task.

Some of the lessons of that experience are now integrated into Simply Confirm’s Smart Task Manager.  It alerts staff when deadlines have been assigned, whether employees are on their office computer or on the road with a cell phone, and it manages the team’s progress on a user-friendly, elegant interface. Managers can use the Smart Task Manager to learn who has received their messages and when. They can also send questions with the Smart Task Manager that must be answered to ensure your messages have been understood. You’ll be able and to more easily identify in real time the strengths and management needs of each team member and leader.

Making sure responsibilities are clear, directions are read and understood, and that everyone is on time – every time – allows you to focus more of your time on a key ingredient to team success: personal accountability.

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