An organisation that’s plagued with problems like missed deadlines and projects that fail to hit the mark is clearly under stress. It’s imperative to unearth the root cause of the problems so that the organisation can heal and operate as a successful company.
Not all problems will stem from the same cause and each problem will require a separate investigation. That said, many problems in organisations stem from something that should be simple, but that many organisations get wrong – effective communication.
This area, communication, could thus be a very good place to start when trying to discover what exactly is leading to the particular problems an organisation is experiencing.
Communication networks and the roles they play
The internet is bursting at the seams with advice on how to improve internal communication in a business. Solutions offered range from establishing a company newsletter or an open plan office to organising regular events outside the office so that colleagues can get to know each other.
But do these strategies improve communication or do they just make information more readily available?
Take the case of the newsletter, for instance. A newsletter can be packed with valuable information about the company and dressed up to look enticing, but that doesn’t mean the recipient will read it. This means they still won’t receive information intended for them.
Or let’s look at the setup of an open plan office. It might sound absurd, but seating people close to each other does not guarantee that information will be passed on. It could be for any number of reasons, but one could be that two people who should be in close contact is seated far away from each other.
So if these types of solutions are not the ideal, what is?
The paths information follow throughout the organisation have to be evaluated. The particular path information takes in the organisation you’re involved in might not be suitable for the type of organisation, team or task. So first establish which path is followed in your organisation, then adapt however necessary.
The four basic paths, or communication networks, are:
- The Chain
- The Wheel
- The Circle
- The Y
These networks were established after experiments conducted by Alex Bavelas, a professor at MIT, and one of his students in the late 1940’s and 1950’s.
Let’s look at each network individually:
In the chain, information moves from the top down. Each person in the chain can only communicate with the persons on either side of them. This network could very easily lead to a bottle-necking of information if it is not passed on from one person to the next in time.
One central person is in charge of and distributes information to people on the ‘spokes’ of the wheel. This network has the potential to improve productivity and effectiveness of communication by a large margin, because everyone in the team or organisation knows who to direct questions to.
Information is shared equally in the circle, with everyone free to communicate with whomever they choose or need to. This network facilitates the sharing of information most easily, although it could also hamper communication as there is no central point of control.
The Y network is less centralised than the wheel, but more than the circle and the chain. Information passes from a central point through two paths, which aids the flow of information while putting a central person in control of what happens.
It’s easy to see why a chain network won’t work in a team environment. In this collaborative set-up, a circle will work much better. But a circle won’t work in a warehouse where communication has to move down the line. Here a chain, or even a Y, will indeed be effective. It all depends on the goals that need to be achieved.
Evaluating the methods of communication is as important as assessing the communication networks. The form in which communication is conveyed could help or hinder the message too. E-mail, Skype, teleconferencing and video conferencing are just some of the methods available to organisations. At the heart of all of this is an efficient telecommunications network management system. Without such a system in place, the organisation’s telecommunications – and thus communication – is in jeopardy.
But – see to it that all parts function and work together optimally and you’ll have an organisation with excellent communication and great efficiency and performance levels.