Studies in Personnel and Industrial Psychology

By Edwin A. Fleishman | Go to book overview

40. Studying Communication Patterns in Organizations*

Keith Davis

RECENTLY MUCH attention has been devoted to problems of communication in organizations, but methods of studying communication problems outside the laboratory have been fraught with all the usual difficulties of field research in social science. One area of particular difficulty has been the inability to record and "map" actual communication patterns in an organization. This paper reports a method of communication analysis which makes it possible to record and analyze communication patterns in terms of their variables, such as timing, media, subject matter, and organizational level.

A trial of the method in an operating business organization showed it to be effective in reporting patterns of communication accurately and in detail. This method of communication analysis is believed to be the first method providing by a simple questionnaire a large quantity of communication data for study. The method is called "ecco analysis."1 By subjecting communication variables to measurement and tabulation, ecco analysis can do for communication problems what the development of attitude analysis did for morale problems two decades ago.


THE NEED FOR COMMUNICATION PATTERN ANALYSIS

Communication is a basic process of organization. It is the "nervous system" which makes organizations cohere and permits their members to cooperate and coordinate.2 Laboratory research led Bavelas3 to conclude that "communication is not a secondary or derived aspect of organization

____________________
*
From "A Method of Studying Communication Patterns in Organizations," Personnel Psychology, Vol. 6, 1953, pp. 301-12.
1
The term "ecco" is derived from "episodic communication channels in organization." The method reports data in the manner of a communication "echo."
2
Charles H. Cooley, "The Significance of Communication," in Bernard Berelson and Morris Janowitz (eds.), Reader in Public Opinion and Communication ( Glencoe, Ill.: The Free Press, 1950), p. 45.
3
Alex Bavelas and Dermot Barrett, "An Experimental Approach to Organizational Communication," Personnel, Vol. 27, 1951, p. 368; Harold Leavitt, "Some Effects of Certain Communication Patterns on Group Performance," Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, Vol. 46, 1951, pp. 38-50.

-393-

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