Why is communication a recurring problem and how to resolve part of it?

Communication always appears on the top ten list of opportunities companies need to take care of. It doesn’t matter who answers the survey, communication will be there. One of the key challenges with communication is that it has many interpretations seen differently by people. 

Some people will see communication problems associated with what was communicated, some will be bothered by when communication took place (if at all), others bothered by where the communication happened, few people will feel that the way (how) the communication was delivered can be improved, and people always have concerns about who delivered the communication.

We base communication on an understanding of interactions, impacts, and flows between people and groups in organizations. Those three aspects of interlinks between people and groups can be used to understand what is causing miscommunications. Sometimes, they can provide resolutions.

What bother people in more details

Who

One of the main problems of communication is a simple lack of knowledge who we need to communicate with when we are taking action or making decisions. We know to follow the reporting lines, that’s simple. But, we forget keeping all other people we impact updated.

Some people are impacted by who is sending them a message. They expect certain messages to come from certain people. If this logic is not kept, they see communication as a problem. I saw the frustration in my career more than once because people didn’t expect me to send them certain data.

Another common and annoying problem under this category is the fact that no one remembered to send any communication. People wake up to a new reality with no previous communication. 

When

Sending communication is not enough, if communication arrived too late, it is worthless. Since communication is the way to keep different parts of groups or organizations in sync based on dependencies, timing matters. If communication happened, but after a decision or an action taken, it’s too late for the notified party to take any action. The result is frustration. Timing is one of the main contributors to making communication a top concern.

Where

Communication can be sent over several channels. It can be done verbally, using an e-mail, texting, or any messaging platform. While all of those mediums are valid, some people treat them differently and expect to get messages in different mediums based on urgency. Sometimes communication issues will pop up because of different expectations of the sender and the receiver on the right channel.

How

How the message was delivered can cause problems. The content, the tone, the words, each one of those has different impacts on different personalities. Even if the communication was sent at the right time and using the right channel, it might cause issues if the receiver perceives the “how” differently than the sender’s intention. Obviously, different mediums of communications can generate different challenges of how messages interpret. 

What

People want to get communication on what they need, every other information coming their way is considered as bad communication. On the other hand, people are not taking a proactive approach to convey what they expect to get. 

This problem is magnified by the pressure to keep people informed. Most of the people are confused and don’t know who they need to inform. The simple solution is to blast information to everyone they think might be relevant. The result is information overload.

Sent content is influenced by the agendas and goals of the sender and the receiver. Getting communication about anything that is not aligned with someone’s goals and agenda may be considered unnecessary data that clutter communications. 

Using interactions, impacts, and flows 

Interactions happen when one party in an organization is impacting an internal state of another party. Every role or group in a company has a list of internal states and any other role or group can change those states by making a decision or taking action. In most cases, interactions will be an outcome of direct relationships. 

Impacts are not an outcome of a direct relationship. They will impact other parties that are not part of an interaction. The impact is not necessarily a change in internal state, but it will cause the impacted party to respond, react or change perception. 

Flows are exchanges of information and materials between parties in an organization or any other containers that can accumulate anything that is needed to operate the business of a company. Flows are not defining any change, they just capture flow between elements in an organization.
Each one of the above interlinks has a dedicate visual language to define it. Agent-base modeling is used to capture interactions. Causal loop diagrams (CLP) can depict impacts, and stocks and flows diagrams are a good way to depict flows.

All of those modeling tools have the same prerequisite requirement, they need a definition of elements in organizations and different levels of their attributes. All of those modeling schemas provide the same output, different levels of understanding how people and group interlinked and what the outcome of those interlinks.  

The prerequisite and outcomes can be used to mitigate several of the causes for communication issues, we mentioned above.

Relying on the models mentioned above it should be clear who should get notifications and from whom. Following the casual and flow diagrams should prevent a situation that needed communication is not sent to the needed party in the organization.

The stocks and flow diagram defined processes and impacts. Following this model should minimize significantly scenarios where communication is sent to the right parties but at the wrong time.

The repository created by the modeling tools can also be used to define the agreed channel to send a communication in a given scenario. This small piece of data can resolve the problem of getting the right communication on the wrong channel.

Modeling and repository can’t provide any remediation for the way a person conveys a message, but it can be helpful for tuning the message to the right people and reducing clutter. 

Last but not least, all the helpful data can be collected and used to automate the process of communication. This is one of the focus of Galaxies and we encourage you to use modeling and the outcomes to automate your communication processes. 

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