Years ago, when I was studying part time for my degree, I remember covering a module on telecommunication systems. My degree focussed on business, but I elected to do some technology related courses too in order to broaden my horizons, and I found the telecommunication module particularly interesting.
One model which always sticks with me was a generic model of communication that was taught. When you’re communicating electronically you need a:
- Sender (e.g. someone speaking over a phone line)
- Receiver (e.g. someone listening at the remote end of a phone line)
- Message (e.g. the message being transmitted over the wire)
- Medium (e.g. the wire or satellite carrying the message)
Whilst this was taught from a technical viewpoint, I remember thinking at the time that this model of communication could be applied in many different circumstances – including a business context. Communication is a perennial issue in many organisational situations.
I’m sure we’ve all worked in organisations, projects and programmes where the communication just doesn’t seem to work. The problem is rarely an absence of communication—modern corporate organisations communicate all the time. There’s the Intranet. E-mail. Instant Messanger. Document Repositorys. Blogs. Sometimes people even take the time to speak face to face over a coffee or a beer. Yet still we don’t seem to get access to what we need.
Ironically, most organisations respond to “communication issues” by simply communicating more. They create more messages that are sent by a wider variety of senders in a seemingly unlimited plethora of media. But this is of little use if nobody is listening!
It struck me that in order to diagnose a communication problem, it’s important to know whether the sender is sending the right information (on the right channels), and whether they are monitoring to see if it’s actually being consumed. It’s also crucial to consider whether the recipient is listening and whether they are ready to collaborate.
The “BCM”: A back-of-a-napkin communication model
Putting these two dimensions on a graph creates a useful model:
* In this model “Sending” assumes that the right information is being sent at an appropriate time in an appropriate medium. “Not Sending” might also imply that the sender isn’t utilising the right media.
This model can be used to take a quick benchmark of a communication problem, and provides a mechanism for considering what the desired outcome is. It encourages us to think about not just the message but also how the effectiveness is being monitored as well as the attitude of the recipient.
It can also be interesting to consider both the sender’s view on the situation and the recipient’s view. Often there may be subtle differences – often the sender feels that the situation is “Mutiny” (“Well, we put all the information on our Intranet….”) but the Recipient thinks the situation is “Frustration” (“We just never hear what we need to; the intranet is so hard to navigate, and what we need is something that arrives in a more timely manner”). Discussing these differences can help agree on communication mechanisms that work and those that don’t.
Effective communication needs effort from both parties, but when it works it is extremely beneficial.
I hope you find this article and this model useful. Good luck!
I hope you’ve found this article interesting. What are your views on the BCM model above? How might you use it. I’d love to hear from you, so please add a comment below! And if you like my blog, please subscribe.
About the author:
Adrian Reed is Principal Consultant at Blackmetric Business Solutions, an organisation that offers Business Analysis consulting and training solutions. Adrian is a keen advocate of the analysis profession, and is constantly looking for ways of promoting the value that good analsis can bring.
To find out more about the training and consulting services offered at Blackmetric, please visit www.blackmetric.com