Communication is the lifeblood of an organization and miscommunication has contributed to the equivalent of cardiovascular damage in more than one organization. At Hallmark, Hockaday and his colleagues traced a cumbersome process of card design to a communications system that (probably for very good reasons at one time) emphasized communication within departments more than between departments. Something as seemingly simple as the physical location in which the people work appears to have made a big difference. Hallmark was fortunate in having managers who were able to diagnose and correct the communications problem. Without effective communication among different parties, the pattern of relationships that we call organizations will serve no one’s need very well.
The importance of effective communication:
Effective communication is important to managers for three primary reasons. First, communication provides a common thread for the management processes of planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. Managers develop plans through communication with others at their organizations and organize to carry out those plans be talking with other people about how best to distribute authority and design jobs. Managers know that motivational policies, leadership, and groups and teams are activated through the regular exchange of information. We will see that communication is equally important for controlling the work of the organization.’ In a variation on Peters’ and Waterman’s concept of “management by walking around” we might say that management is also a complex practice of “talking around” the organization.
Second, effective communications skills can enable managers to draw on the vast array of talents available in the multicultural world of organizations. The globalization of business certainly poses a challenge to managers’ communications abilities. As managers encounter customs and expressions and meanings that probably seem very foreign, they might be tempted to shy away and avoid trying to communicate. That can be a major missed opportunity Western managers must accept that treating English as “the world’s language” runs grave risks, for example. Communications, like any intellectual activity, can be honed through encountering new; challenging circumstances. Organizations can be good places to learn that Lesson.
Third it so happens that managers do spend a great deal of time communicating. Rarely are managers alone at their desks thinking, planning, or contemplating alternatives. In fact, managerial time is spent largely in face-to-face, electronic or telephone communication with employees, supervisors, suppliers, or customers. When not conferring with others in person or on the telephone, managers may be writing or dictating memos, letters, or reports or perhaps reading such communications sent to them. Even in those few periods when managers are alone, they are frequently interrupted by communications. For example, one study of middle and top managers found that they could work uninterrupted for a half hour or more only once every two days. The manager’s job has three types of roles according to management experts. Here, we note that communication plays a vital role in each.
We begin this article by discussing communication as a matter of individual and social psychology. You can readily identify with these processes. Then we move to consider communications in the context of larger organizations, discussing the difficulties that can commonly arise. Then we look at a particular kind of communications process that is crucial whenever conflicts among different people’s stakes arise the process of negotiation. New communications technologies affect and challenge much of what managers have learned about effective communications within and between organizations.
Communication is defined as the process by which people seek to share meaning via the transmission of symbolic messages. Our working definition of communication calls attention to three essential points: (1) that communication involves people, and that understanding communication therefore involves trying to understand how people relate to each other; (2) that communication involves shared meaning, which suggests that in order for people to communicate, they must agree on the definitions of the terms they are using; and (3) that communication involves symbols – gestures, sounds, letters, numbers, and words can only represent or approximate the ideas that they are meant to communicate.