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Effective Communication

Breakdown in communications is often cited as a reason for failure in negotiations, initiatives, projects and organizations. I have yet to see project Lessons Learned, which did not feature communications as one of the competencies to be improved. We are told that communication is something we always must do more of, that it is impossible to over communicate…yet, breakdowns keep happening, to keep the Lessons Learned coming.

So, why is it such a problem?

The following are five reasons that cause or aggravate deficiencies in communication. You may be able to observe all of them in your organization.

  1. Vague responsibilities and poor discipline
    A trivial issue of failing to spell out who is responsible for dissemination of information and facilitation of the communication process can be easily overcome by creating a communication plan, either verbal or written (whatever is appropriate) and sticking to it. Are you delegating it to someone? Be specific on the expectations, the media and the protocol.

  2. Lack of transparency
    “We cannot make it public knowledge”
    “It would not be appropriate”
    “We need to ensure X is ok with us saying this, but he is on vacation for two weeks”
    Sounds familiar? Of course it does. Instead of communicating openly, organizations routinely engage in political hopscotch, which unavoidably produces a brood of worst kept secrets, gossip and uncertainty. And uncertainty kills productivity.
    I command you – cut through this stuff, be proactive and foster the spirit of transparence within your organization. Squash gossip by providing trustworthy information.

  3. Efficiency
    The human brain is an incredibly efficient device, capable of processing massive amounts of information quickly and efficiently. Such processing power is possible due to the presence of synapses, which allow neutrons to exchange information in a parallel mode. It is the power of our brains that makes the otherwise pretty unimpressive hairless ape the most powerful animal on Earth.

    Those organizations that encourage communication in all directions and at all levels, not unlike in a neural network, are the ones that are nimble, quick and powerful. They thrive.

  4. Poor content
    Communication that lacks substance and relevance, no matter how wordy or even eloquent, is useless if not harmful. Provide information, not data; ideas, not words.

  5. Lack of discipline
    Nothing to say here but that we all goof off, forget, procrastinate and drop the ball. There is no excuse for it. Maybe I‘ll talk about how to deal with these later… perhaps next time… if I remember!

By the way, I’ll be speaking on the Best Practices in Business Cases at the Toronto Chapter of the International Institute of Business Analysts ( on May 28. Check with them if you’re interested in attending as a guest.

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