Managing Communication Successfully in Your Management System

By Kleiner, Brian M. | Industrial Management, September/October 1993 | Go to article overview

Managing Communication Successfully in Your Management System


Kleiner, Brian M., Industrial Management


Communication is overlooked and underrated in terms of its impact and importance in organizations. Barnard instructed that "providing a system of communication is one of three executive functions essential to the survival of an organization." Bennis and Nannus stated "providing meaning through communication is one of four key leadership strategies." Nevertheless, we generally approach communication passively and reactively; we assume by the lines in our organizational charts and by the arrows on our flow diagrams that communication is truly linking the organization and our processes. We are often perplexed when breakdowns in communication occur. In many organizations, communication problems have become a cliche. It is often cited as the root cause of a problem with no effort directed at correcting the problem. What we need is a systematic way to understand communication in the management system, a way to assess its effectiveness and methods for continuous performance improvement.

THE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

Every manager has a domain in which he/she operates. This domain is characterized by a management system that includes people, tools, technology, information, etc. Most managers do not consciously think about their management system. This lack of recognition can lead to a gap between what you do as a manager and what you should do as a manager.

Kurstedt identified a management system as containing three components-"who manages," "what is used to manage" and "what is managed," as illustrated in Figure 1. What is used to manage refers to management tools and what is managed focuses on the organizational system. There are also three interfaces: the measurement-to-data interface between what is being managed and management tools; the information portrayal to information perception interface between tools and who is managing (management tools portray information while the manager perceives the information from the management tools), and the decision-to-action interface between who is managing, and what is being managed. In this interface, the manager yields decisions while the organizational system requires actions. The organizational system yields measures while management tools require data.

A COMMUNICATIONS MANAGEMENT MODEL

Communication has an important role in your management system, as illustrated in Figure 2. The communication process is a glue that holds the management system and its components together and helps achieve balance. You, the manager, are the sender of information (in the form of decisions and actions) to the organizational system, which is the receiver. The message (decision) must be encoded in a way it can be understood by both sender and receiver. It must be transmitted over a channel that links you with the organizational system. The organizational system must be ready for the message so it can be decoded and understood. Noise, including physical noise or other hindrances to communication (e.g. crises, prejudice, etc.), can hinder the process. From this point, the organizational system then becomes the sender of information back to you, because you need feedback on the implementation of the action taken.

At this juncture, your role is to be a receiver, and communication tools should enable this. The communication process facilitates the interfaces as well. First, as manager, your decisions must be converted into actions. You will successfully communicate decisions into actions if you use appropriate communication principles and techniques. There also needs to be a match between the measurement of the organizational system and the data fed into management tools that convert the data to information. Improvement interventions and management team decisions require information about how well the organization is performing. Techniques to collect, process and communicate data are important. Design of management tools will consider the data required, and if designed concurrently, the organizational system measurement techniques and the measures themselves will be compatible with the requirements of the user-centered tools. …

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