Monday, August 20, 2007


The communication model present in Exhibit 11.1 provides a useful “conduit” metaphor for thinking about the communication process. According to this model, communication flows through channels between the sender and the receiver. The sender forms a message and encodes it into words, gestures, voice intonations, and other symbols or signs. Next, the encoded message is transmitted to the intended receiver through one or more communication channels (media). The receiver senses the incoming message and decodes it into something meaningful. Ideally, the decoded meaning is what the sender had intended.

In most situations, the sender looks for evidence that the other person received and understood the transmitted message. This feedback may be a formal acknowledgement, such as “Yes, I know what you mean,” or indirect evidence from the receiver’s subsequent actions. Notice that feedback repeats the communication process. Intended feedback is encoded, transmitted, received, and decoded from the receiver to the sender of the original message.

This model recognizes that communication is not a free-flowing conduit. Rather, the transmission of meaning from one person to another is hampered by noise – the psychological, social, and structural barriers that distort and obscure the sender’s intended message. If any part of the communication process is distorted or broken, the sender and receiver will not have a common understanding of the message.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


Pearse Flynn believes in the power of communication at Alcatel. Communication refers to the process by which information is transmitted and understood between two or more people. We emphasize the word understood because transmitting the sender’s intended meaning is the essence of good communication. Pearse Flynn and other leaders of large organizations require innovative strategies to keep communication pathways open. Smaller businesses may have fewer structural bottlenecks, but they, too, can suffer from subtle communication barriers.

In a knowledge-based economy, employees require a high level of communication competence. Communication competence refers to a person’s ability to identify appropriate communication patterns in a given situation and to achieve goals by applying that knowledge. Competent communications quickly learn the meaning that listeners take from certain words and symbols, and they know which communication medium is best in a particular situation. Moreover, competent communicators use this knowledge to communicate in ways that achieve personal, team, and organizational objectives. Someone with high communication competence would be better than others at determining whether an e-mail, telephone call, or personal visit would be the best approach to convey a message to an employee. Corporate leaders spend most of their time and energy communicating with employees and other stakeholders. Consequently, communication competence is particularly important for people in these senior positions.

Communication plays an important role in knowledge management. Employees are the organization’s brain cells, and communication represents the nervous system that carries information and shared meaning to vital parts of the organizational body. Effective communication brings knowledge into the organization and disseminates it quickly to employees who require that information. Effective communication minimizes the “silos of knowledge” problem that undermines an organization’s potential and, in turn, allows employees to make more informal decisions about corporate actions. For instance, British Telekom encourages employees to generate “knowledge moments” – occasions where shared knowledge results in better decisions.

Along with decision making and knowledge management, effective communication coordinates work activities. Through dialogues, co-workers develop common mental models – the broad worldviews that people rely on to guide their perceptions and behaviors – so they can synchronize interdependent work activities through common expectations and assumptions. Lastly, communication is the glue that bonds people together. It fulfills social needs and, as part of the dynamics of social support, eases work-related stress.

Barriers to Effective Communication

The Sender

- Inconsistency

- Credibility

- Reluctance

The Receiver

- Selective attention

- Attitudes

- Value judgments

Both the Sender and Receiver

- Overload

- Semantics

- Status differences

- Power differences

- Perceptual difference

- Language difference

- Cultural difference