We have been talking about how effective closed loop communication is within medical code situations and how the AHA recommends medical professionals use it. We also discussed how closed-loop communication is very effective in other forms of business communication outside of the medical setting.
It’s important to note that in a closed loop communication, the loop is not closed when the message (instruction) from the sender is received and confirmed by the receiver and verified by the sender.
The goal of closed-loop communication is to get a task completed not simply to send a message. As such in a medical code, the loop is only closed when the task is completed and reported to the team leader who gave the task.
In a medical code situation, every task is completed immediately and feedback is given to the delegator (team leader). When applying closed-loop communication to other business settings, tasks aren’t always given in a group setting where the delegator is face-to-face with the delegatee. Also, tasks aren’t always completed immediately as must be done in the case of a medical code.
How does closed loop communication work when completing tasks within an organizational setting where not everybody is gathered at the same place and where some tasks can’t be performed immediately?
When a delegator gives an assignment to a delegatee and the delegatee uses close communication to confirm and verify the assignment (as in steps 1-3 above, counting from the start box as step 1), the next thing the delegatee needs to do is to determine when he/she is going to get the assignment done.
The delegatee has to determine if the assignment is something that can be done immediately or if they need to schedule it. If it is something that will not take them more than a few minutes to do, and they are able to find time in their schedule to do it right away, then they are encouraged to get it done immediately.
If it’s an assignment the delegatee cannot immediately do and needs to schedule some time to do it later, then the delegatee needs to immediately look at their schedule and give the delegator a deadline by which the task would be completed. It is the delegatee’s responsibility to make sure that he gets the job done and keeps the delegator updated if the task takes longer to complete.
If there is any delay or if the delegatee needs to make any changes to the deadline set earlier, it is his responsibility to communicate the change immediately to the delegator.
The delegatee should always assume that the delegator is very interested in getting ongoing updates about the task completion process.
Keep the delegator in the loop at all times.
Remember that in closed-loop communication the loop is only closed when the task is completed accurately and a report is given to the delegator about how the activity was done–if everything went OK, or if there were any challenges that were encountered in carrying out the task. Since working together is always a learning process, this kind of feedback helps the delegator when giving future assignments.
This is of course in a situation where the delegator has not set a specific deadline for the task to be completed. That’s when it is at the discretion of the delegatee to set a deadline by which to complete the task. Obviously, if the deadline was set by the delegator then it will be incumbent on the one completing the task to make sure that the task is completed before the deadline.
I realize that delegator could take responsibility to check to make sure that the task is completed. And some leaders encourage this.
However, I personally don’t favor that type of management with my team. My goal is to train our team leaders to become effective leaders in their own right and not simply employees who need a manager to guide and supervise them before they can complete tasks. I see every single one of my team members as leaders, not simply followers. The way to equip them to become better leaders is to teach them through repeated assignments to take ownership and responsibility for every task assigned to them to make sure that the task is done in a timely manner. I empower them when I let them set the deadline and determine how and when they will get the task done. That is how one learns leadership.
To summarize, here’s how a delegatee should respond when a task of any size is giving to him. Whether a task is small or big, whether a task takes one minute or one year to complete, the response should be as follows:
- Use closed-loop communication to make confirm and verify the instructions. This ensures that you understand the instructions accurately.
- Set a deadline immediately and communicate it to the delegator.
- If the task is small and doesn’t take long, then immediately get it done and report back to the delegator. Also, let her know if you had any issues doing so.
- If you cannot do the task immediately because it might take much time or you at extremely busy and cannot do it immediately, you should immediately schedule the task and communicate the deadline to the delegator.
- At the scheduled time perform the task and report to the delegator.
- If there is any delay and you need to make changes to the deadline, you should immediately communicate the suggested change to the delegator and apologize, if necessary, for the delay.
- Always assume that the delegator is interested in knowing how that task is going on till you have reported to him or her that the activity has been completed. The loop is only closed when the task is completed and report it to the delegator.
Why is closed loop communication essential to effective task completion?
Communicating with the delegator helps to build trust. It allows to delegator to feel comfortable to allow the delegatee to complete tasks at their own discretion knowing that they will communicate with the delegator and keep him updated at all times if any changes need to be made.
This avoids the delegator from having the urge to micromanage the delegatee. This kind of effective communication gives confidence to the delegator. It helps him know the task is being taken care. It helps the team to avoid having a situation where an employee forgets to carry out an important task.
It also helps the team member learn to become a better leader and problem solver by taking a problem, coming up with an agenda to solve it, taking charge of solving it, and communicating with the stakeholders about the state of the problem until it is solved.