Thursday, 22 December 2011

14: Communication

Communication is the transfer of information from a sender to a receiver, with information being understood by the receiver.

The Purpose of Communication

The purpose of the communication in an enterprise is to effect change—to influence action towards the welfare of the enterprise. Communication is essential for the internal functioning of enterprise, because it integrates the managerial functions. Especially, communication is needed to: establish and disseminate goals of an enterprise; develop plans for their achievement; organize human and other resources in the most effective and efficient way; select, develop and apprise members of the organization; lead, direct, motivate and create a climate in which people want to contribute and control performance. Communication also relates an enterprise to its external environment. It is through information exchange that managers become aware of the needs of customers, the availability of suppliers, the claims of stockholders, the regulations of govt. and concerns of a community.

The Communication Process

The Sender of the Message
Communication begins with the sender, who has a thought or an idea which is then encoded in a way (English language or even computer language) that can be understood by both the sender and the receiver.

Use of Channel to Transmit the Message
The information is transmitted over a channel that links the sender with the receiver. The message may be oral or written, and it may be transmitted through a memorandum, a computer, a telephone etc.

The Receiver of the Message
The receiver has to be ready for the message so that it can be decoded into thought. Decoding occur only when both the sender and the receiver attach the same or at least similar meanings to the symbols that compose the message. So communication is not complete unless it is understood.

Noise Hindering Communication
Unfortunately, communication is affected by “noise” which is anything—whether in the sender, the transmission or the receiver—that hinders communication. For example: noise, ambiguous symbols, inattention, etc.

Feedback in Communication
To check the effectiveness of communication, a person must have a feedback. Similarly, feedback indicates whether individual or organizational change has taken place as a result of communication.

Situational and Organizational Factors in Communication
Many situational and organizational factors affect the communication process. Such factors in external environment may be educational, sociological, legal-political and economic. Another situational factor is geographic distance. Time must also be considered in communication.

Communication in the Organization

Information must flow faster than ever before. It is essential that production problems be communicated quickly for corrective action. Another important element is the amount of relevant information. It is necessary to determine what kind of information a manager needs to have for effective decision making. Obtaining this information frequently requires getting information from manager’s supervisors and subordinates and also from departments and people elsewhere in the organization.

The Manager’s Need to Know
To be effective, a manager needs information necessary for carrying out managerial functions and activities but managers often lack vital information for decision making, or they may get too much information, resulting in overload. A simple way for a manager to start is to ask, “What do I really need to know for my job?” or “What would happen if I did not get this information on regular basis?”

The Communication Flow in the Organization
In an effective organization, communication flows in various directions: downward, upward and crosswise. If communication flows only downward, problems will develop.

Downward Communication: This kind of communication exists especially in organizations with an authoritarian atmosphere. Oral downward communication: instruction, speeches, meetings and even he grapevine.

Upward Communication: Upward communication travels from subordinates to superiors and continues up the organizational hierarchy. Upper management needs to know specially production performance facts, marking information, financial data, what lower level employees are thinking and so on. Typical means are suggestion systems, appeal and grievance procedures, complaint systems, counseling sessions, joint setting of objectives. Effective upward communication requires an environment in which subordinates feel free to communicate. Organizational climate is greatly influenced by upper management, the responsibility for creating a free flow of upward communication rests on a great extent—although not exclusively—with superiors.

Crosswise Communication: Crosswise communication includes the horizontal flow of information. This kind of communication is used to speed information flow, to improve understanding, and to coordinate efforts for the achievement of organization objectives. Oracle communication include from informal meetings, lunch hours, task teams across departments etc. Written forms include the company newspaper, magazine, bulletin board notice. Crosswise communication may create difficulties, e.g. subordinates not refraining from making commitment beyond there authority, but it is necessary.

Written, Oral and Nonverbal Communication
Written, oral and nonverbal communications are used together so that the favorable qualities of each can complement the other. When message is repeated through several media, the people receiving it will more accurately comprehend and recall it. An executive who feels uncomfortable in front of a large audience may choose written communication rather than a speech. On the other hand, certain audience who may not read a memo may be reached and become motivated by direct oral communication.

Written Communication: It has advantage of providing records, references, and legal defenses. The disadvantages are that written messages may create mountains of paper, may be poorly expressed by ineffective writers. It may provide no immediate feedback. Also it may take a long time to know whether a message has been received and properly understood.

Oral Communication: It can occur face-to-face meeting, presentation. Its advantage is it makes possible speedy interchange with immediate feedback. A meeting with the superior may give the subordinate a feeling of importance. However, it does not always save time.

Nonverbal Communication: Facial expressions and body gestures are examples of Nonverbal communication. Nonverbal communication is expected to support the verbal, but it does not always do so. Nonverbal communication may support or contradict verbal communication, giving rise to the saying that actions often speak louder than words.

Communication Methods
There are different methods and channels for communication—some are oral, some are written and some use information technology. Technology is used for certain kinds of communication such as the use of the wired and wireless telephone, fax, voice mail, e-mail etc. Every method has its own value at certain situation.

Barriers and Breakdowns in Communications

Managers frequently cite communication breakdowns as one of their most important problems. However, communication problems are often symptoms of more deeply rooted problems. For example, poor planning may be the cause of uncertainty about the direction of the firm. Similarly, a poorly designed organization structure may not clearly communicate organizational relationships. Thus, perspective manager will look for the causes of communication problems instead of just dealing with the symptoms.

Lack of Planning
Too often people start talking and writing without first thinking, planning and stating the purpose of the message.

Unclear Assumptions
Often overlooked, yet very important, are the un-communicated assumptions that underlie message.

Semantic Distortion
Another barrier to effective communication is semantic distortion, which can be deliberate or accidental. Message can be deliberately or accidentally ambiguous.

Poorly Expressed Messages
No matter how clear the idea in the mind of the sender of communication, the message may still be marked by poorly chosen words, omissions, lack of coherence, poor organization, awkward sentence structure, platitudes, unnecessary jargon and failure to clarify its implications.

Communication Barriers in the International Environment
Communication in the international environment becomes even more difficult because of different languages, cultures and etiquette.

Loss by Transmission and Poor Retention
In the series of transmissions from one person to the next, the message becomes less and less accurate. Poor retention of information is another serious problem.

Poor Listening and Premature Evaluation
There are many talkers but few listeners. Listening demands full attention and self-discipline. It also requires that the listener avoid premature evaluation of what another person has to say. Listening with empathy can reduce some of the daily frustrations in organized life and result in better communication.

Impersonal Communication
Effective communication requires face-to-face contact in an environment of openness and trust.

Distrust, Threat and Fear
Distrust, threat and fear undermine communication. Distrust can be the result of inconsistent behavior by the superior, or it can be due to past experiences in which the subordinate was punished for honestly reporting unfavorable, but true, information to the boss. What is needed is a climate of trust, which facilitates open and honest communication.

Insufficient Period for adjustment to Change
The purpose of communication is to effect change that may seriously concern employees: shift in the time, place, type and order of work or shifts in group arrangements or skills to be used.

Information Overload
Unrestricted flow may result in too much information. People respond to information overload by disregarding certain information, by ignoring letters that people make errors in processing it, by delaying processing of information, by filtering information. One way to approach the overload problem is to reduce the demands for information.

Other Communication Barriers
In selective reception people tend to perceive what they expect to perceive. They hear what they want to hear and ignore other relevant information. Closely related to perception is the influence of attitude, which is the predisposition to act or not to act in certain way.

Toward an Effective Communication

Guidelines for Improving Communication
1. Senders of message must clarify in their minds what they want to communicate. Purpose of the message and making a plan to achieve the intended end must be clarified.
2. Encoding and decoding be done with symbols that are familiar to the sender and the receiver of the message.
3. For the planning of the communication, other people should be consulted and encouraged to participate.
4. It is important to consider the needs of the receivers of the information. Whenever appropriate, one should communicate something that is of value to them, in the short run as well as in the more distant future.
5. In communication, tone of voice, the choice of language and the congruency between what is said and how it is said influence the reactions of the receiver of the message.
6. Communication is complete only when the message is understood by the receiver. And one never knows whether communication is understood unless the sender gets a feedback.
7. The function of communication is more than transmitting the information. It also deals with emotions that are very important in interpersonal relationships between superiors, subordinates and colleagues in an organization.
8. Effective communicating is the responsibility not only of the sender but also of the receiver of the information.

Listening: A Key to Understanding
Time, empathy and concentration on the communicator’s message are prerequisites for understanding. It is wise both sender and receiver to give and ask for feedback, for without it one can never be sure whether the message is understood. Out of ten guides to improve listening, by John W Newstrom, important are, stop talking, hold your temper, go easy on arguments and criticism, ask questions and finally again stop talking.

Tips for Improving Written Communication
Common problems in written communications are that writers omit the conclusion or bury it in the reports, are too wordy, and use poor grammar, ineffective sentence structure and incorrect spelling.

1. Use simple words and Phrases.
2. Use short and familiar words.
3. Give illustration and examples.
4. Use short sentence and paragraphs.

Forceful Style: The tone is be polite but firm. This is to be used when writer has a power.
Passive Style: This is to be used when writer in the position lower than that of recipient of the message.
Personal Style: This is to be used for communicating good news and making persuasive request for action.
Lively/Colorful Style: This is to be used for good-news items, advertisement and sales letter.
Less Colorful Style: This is appropriate for common business writing.

Tips for Improving Oral Communication
Giving speeches and having fun doing it, can be learned. To be a good orator what is required is practice, practice and practice. Most of the tips for written communication also apply for oral communication.

Electronic Media in Communication

There are many applications of telecommunication. But to make telecommunication systems effective, technical experts must make every effort to identify the real needs of managers and customers.

In Teleconferencing, a group of people integrating with each other by means of audio and video media with moving or still pictures. Advantages include saving in travel expenses and travel time. Also, conferences can be held whenever necessary. Drawbacks include, equipment is subject to breakdowns, poor substitute for meeting with other persons face-to-face.

The Use of Computers for Information Handling and Networking
One can obtain, analyze and organize timely data quite inexpensively. Reporting system are can have colorful graphics e.g. pie charts, bar charts etc. The new information technology fundamentally changes communication. The computer is expanding its role from simply managing information to a communication role. Its challenges include need for maintaining privacy, security and even freedom.

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