Ron Ashkenas discusses the difficulty of communication on his HBR.org blog, observing that large organisations in particular struggle in this area.
The author admits he has never encountered a senior manager who says that communication is not important. However, he also says that the biggest problem with communication is the assumption that it has taken place.
Organisational communications continue to break down in spite of all the investment, new technology and "generally good intentions" dedicated to improvement. Why is this?
By way of an answer, Ashkenas presents three common traps:
1) Lack of context. "How many times have you received a message but didn't know what was behind it or why it was important?" asks the author. If an initiative is critical, then its urgency and impact on the overall business must be expressed clearly – otherwise, project leaders will treat it as just another assignment.
2) Lack of questions and dialogue. Ashkenas insists: "Without questions, your audience has no opportunity to digest the content through discussion, and communications are hard to absorb."
3) Lack of connection. Communication is always local, says the author. He explains: "The first lens that everyone uses to understand a message is, 'What does it mean for me?' Because of that, communications can often be interpreted differently depending on the person."
Ashkenas likens communication in organisations to the neural network in the human body: "If there is a misfire, the organism becomes inefficient or even dysfunctional."
He adds: "If you're a manager, part of your job is to strengthen the communication pathways to, from, and between your people. To do this effectively, take the time to provide context, encourage questions, and stay sufficiently connected to the different ways that people respond and react to messages."