How do you know when you’ve uncovered an underlying truth? Do you settle on the initial finding? Or do you dig deeper?

I’ve been working with a healthcare client lately to assess and improve their internal communication program.

In interviews, conference calls, employee roundtables, there’s been one sharp area of focus: many on the unit floor have no access to electronic channels of communication. For an organization that focuses much of it’s messaging in such channels, that’s a huge problem.

We could have simply suggested either returning to old traditional channels or opening access (a feat in its own right). But, I started asking more questions.

What I have uncovered is fascinating. These healthcare workers believe in their guts that if they are not in front of a patient they aren’t doing their job. The concept of leveraging valuable insight from an internal online community, or seeing a colleague’s project update, or adding to the discussion about a new protocol isn’t in the mindset. Heck, even simple e-mail is drawing me away from the true purpose of my job. So, the underlying truth is that the culture must change for the organization to truly leverage greater access to electronic tools.

This isn’t the only underlying truth we’ve uncovered in this project. There was much discussion about creating opportunities for dialog. But, the communication team hadn’t really crystalized its role in generating dialog. Not until today, anyway. Today, they realized that they exist to generate dialog, not to take orders or talk at people. They now see their role as enablers of others. That’s a powerful aha.

Another underlying truth we’ve found this week is that some of the complaints about communication that isn’t timely, comprehensive, or satisfactory, is actually about something much deeper. People want to be more involved in decisions that affect them. They complain about not getting information in an appropriate time, when what they really want is to have their ideas considered and to be engaged before final decisions are made. Now that’s another truth we can change to and live by.