Interchange Relationships: The Example of Inventory
Here’s an example of an information interchange: inventory. Every company must manage the supply of raw materials. If you do not order more before the company runs out, the members will be unable to perform their tasks and the shared output will suffer or cease.
As a leader, you have to create and structure this information interchange so that it works. To do this, you have to know the different characteristics of the interchange:
what you are counting (the relationship’s content, the actual piece of information)
who does the counting (the giver, who creates the information)
who the giver hands the information to (the receiver, who needs the information to order supplies)
how does that person know when they should perform the inventory (the trigger)
how the information should look (a second part of content, the structure or method of gathering, formatting, and transferring the information)
There are two extremes on the spectrum of inventory. On the informal side, you might trust your people to keep track of their supplies individually and come to management when they need more. On the formal side, you might have a single person who performs inventory for all of the other members, on a regular schedule using a spreadsheet or application that identifies exactly what must be counted.
The specific characteristics of the inventory interchange will depend entirely on your organization; there is no right answer, only the answer that works for your specific situation. Leadership is always situational.
To create this relationship, you as a leader must formalize the interchange in some way. This is the process by which the relationship is documented, assigned, and members held accountable. Whoever needs to perform this inventory must understand that responsibility and the process to complete it. Yes, these are additional interchange relationships!
If your organization struggles with inventory, then you have an interchange relationship problem. Go look at the relationship that exists now, examine why it fails, and decide on a plan of action to create a more effective interchange. Make sure that interchange is practiced over time until it becomes a relationship – a habitual, established practice. Then you can focus your attention on another aspect of the organization’s performance.
That is functional leadership in action.