Assessing Organizational Communication:Strategic Communication Audits Chapter 4 Choosing Focal Areas to Assess
Phase 3: DiagnosisChoosing Focal Areas to Assess • Auditors should view communication as a key organizing process. • As such it should be related to other organizational processes. • The best assessments: • Cover a broad range of communication processes • Relate at least some of those communication processes to other organizational variables in some depth.
Phase 3: DiagnosisChoosing Focal Areas to Assess • Twelve Guidelines • Examine how the task processes impact communication. • Determine the adequacy of information exchange. • Check the directionality of information flow. • Assess how well employees use the communication media/technologies. • Be sensitive to differences in communication functions. • Check the quality of communication relationships.
Phase 3: DiagnosisChoosing Focal Areas to Assess • Twelve Guidelines • Plot communication networks. • Review the organization as a communication system. • Relate communication to organizational outcomes. • Link internal communication to organizational strategies. • Assess the impact of new technologies on communication. • Be open to the unexpected.
1. Examine How the Task Processes Impact Communication • No communication assessment can be completed without understanding the task processes necessary for directing, controlling, and coordinating work assignments.
1. Examine How the Task Processes Impact Communication • Organizational Logic • A listing of the task processes and a description of how the organization functions. • By analyzing tasks and how they fit together, we begin to understand the demands made on the communication system. • Table 4.1 Sample tasks in an Organization
1. Examine How the Task Processes Impact Communication • The auditor should use the logic to gain insight into how work is done, as that affects the communication that needs to occur. • The logic reveals to the auditor where integration across tasks is necessary – in other words, where people/departments are interdependent.
2. Determine the Adequacy of Information Exchange • One aim of communication is to circulate information. • Three issues are related to how adequately this is accomplished: • Type of Information • Timing of Information • Information Load
2. Determine the Adequacy of Information Exchange • Type of Information • Every audit ought to explore whether people get the information that they need to perform their jobs. • Adequacy can be gauged in two ways: • Employees know they don’t get all the information • Employees sometimes don’t know information is available
2. Determine the Adequacy of Information Exchange • Type of Information • Auditors need to search out what information is, and should be, made available to employees and not be tied to employees’ perceptions only. • Because communication is one of the principal ways of integrating people into an organization, they often want information not related to their own processes.
2. Determine the Adequacy of Information Exchange • Timing of Information • Since information is only useful if it is received on time, the auditor can look for ways of developing a timely distribution system. • This is not always easy to do.
2. Determine the Adequacy of Information Exchange • Information Load • Load refers to the frequency and amount of communication that takes place. • Optimal Load – dictated by the receiver’s ability to process • Underload – when people think they need or could use more information • Overload – when people have more information than they can possibly process.
2. Determine the Adequacy of Information Exchange • Information Load • Although the most common complaint in organizations is that employees do not get enough communication, tension usually develops when moving from underload to overload.
2. Determine the Adequacy of Information Exchange • Information Load • Load may also be related to technology • Photocopiers • Computers – email • In a real sense, the best most assessments can do is to measure whether people feel underloaded or overloaded, but this is important information because it reveals how people are responding to message exchanges.
3. Check the Directionality of Information Flow • Downward Flow • Upward Flow • Horizontal Flow
3. Check the Directionality of Information Flow • Downward Flow • Refers to those message systems that proceed vertically down the chain of command from managers to subordinates. • Employees receive a great deal of information from many different sources, but how much of this communication is effective has always been disputed.
3. Check the Directionality of Information Flow • Downward Flow • There has long been a difference between management’s perceptions of what employees need to know and what employees say they need and want to know.
3. Check the Directionality of Information Flow • Downward Flow • Two functions: • Employees need to have the information necessary to do their jobs. In many organizations such information is late in coming or totally lacking • Good downward communication is not limited to immediate work assignments; it integrates people into their environments. This is the aspect that many organizations neglect.
3. Check the Directionality of Information Flow • Downward Flow • Downward communication may be informal as well as formal; it goes beyond task information; it focuses on the employee, the unit, and the company; it often does not meet the expectations for employees; and it must be constantly adapted to changing circumstances.
3. Check the Directionality of Information Flow • Upward Flow • Communication also flows from employees up the chain of command, either formally or informally. • Some of the most important information processing goes from employees at one level to their superiors. • Without an effective system of reporting upward, no organization could possibly function for long.
3. Check the Directionality of Information Flow • Upward Flow • Upward communication sets the tone for the communication climate. • Whether employees have the freedom to initiate communication with superiors characterizes how employees perceive the communication climate. • Employees often deliberately filter upward communication.
3. Check the Directionality of Information Flow • Upward Flow • Upward communication is important to the organization as well as to its individual members. • Being able to communicate upward gives one a stake in the organization and promotes a sense of dignity or importance. • Upward communication affects individuals’ satisfaction levels.
3. Check the Directionality of Information Flow • Upward Flow • Filtering upward communication can be dysfunctional for overall organizational health. • Upward communication also affects productivity. • Thus, auditors need to assess it closely.
3. Check the Directionality of Information Flow • Horizontal Flow • Much of the communication at work takes place horizontally with peers, colleagues, or fellow workers with whom one does not have a hierarchical relationship. • Those interactions often stimulate organizational commitment. • Horizontal communication is sometimes neglected not out of intent but out of carelessness.
4. Assess How Well Employees Use the Communication Media/Technologies • Messages have to be transmitted through some channel or media. • The choice of media is often the key to whether or not any communication is effective. • Those choices probably most often reflect what is convenient for the sender, but the choices also reflect certain values employees have about the appropriateness of using certain media for tasks or about the symbolic importance of using those media.
4. Assess How Well Employees Use the Communication Media/Technologies • In many circles, there continues to be a bias in favor of face-to-face communication. • “Email is not communication.”
4. Assess How Well Employees Use the Communication Media/Technologies • Five useful questions to ask: • Are the sender’s objectives compatible with the attributes of the intended message? • Are the messages sent compatible with the channels utilized? • Are the sender’s objectives compatible with the type of channels utilized? • Are the messages compatible with the receivers’ characteristics? • Are the channels utilized compatible with the receivers’ characteristics? (Clampitt)
4. Assess How Well Employees Use the Communication Media/Technologies • Email • The new appeal of E-mail is the old appeal of print. It isn’t instant; it isn’t immediate; it isn’t in your face. • What we actually want from our exchanges is the minimum human contact commensurate with the need to connect with people.
4. Assess How Well Employees Use the Communication Media/Technologies • Two general research approaches help to define important concerns that influence communicator’s perceptions of specific media: • Media richness theory • Social information-processing theory
4. Assess How Well Employees Use the Communication Media/Technologies • Media Richness Theory - Categorizes media according to a continuum of interactivity and cues available. • Media offering more interactivity and communication cues (visual and auditory) are on the “rich end” of the continuum. • As media lose their interactivity and communication cues, they are situated on the “lean end” of the continuum.
4. Assess How Well Employees Use the Communication Media/Technologies • Media Richness Theory • Messages higher in ambiguity would require richer communication media, whereas messages lower in ambiguity require leaner communication media.
4. Assess How Well Employees Use the Communication Media/Technologies • Social Information-processing Theory • Expands the focus from the specifics of the task to the participants involved. • The meaning and use of specific media are constructed by the participants involved.
4. Assess How Well Employees Use the Communication Media/Technologies • It is critical to explore the characteristics of the communication media in the context of the organization’s norms and its formal and informal communication relationships by following three steps: • Auditors should assess their client organization’s media comprehensively. • Gauge employee reactions to these media. Over time, people develop a general belief that some media provide important information and others do not. • Evaluate the appropriateness of channel use given the interrelationships among messages, media characteristics, and organizational communicators.
4. Assess How Well Employees Use the Communication Media/Technologies • Because employees have different channel preferences for receiving messages, one guideline is to use multiple channels to send any message. • Channel redundancy helps messages reach a wider audience.
4. Assess How Well Employees Use the Communication Media/Technologies • Other guidelines to help auditors make recommendations: • Does the communication require knowledge sharing? • Do people want to emphasize the message or the source? • How complicated is the message? • Is immediate feedback desirable? • Is it necessary for the sender and the receiver to communicate simultaneously? • Is the message persuasive in nature or is it more informative?
4. Assess How Well Employees Use the Communication Media/Technologies • Auditors should adapt these recommendations to the specific context of the client organization. • Auditors should distinguish between formal and informal channels. • Informal channel generally refers to the grapevine or rumor mill. • Informal horizontal linkages help employees accomplish work and establish powerful communication networks. • Informal channels can compete with formal channels, but they can also reinforce the formal channels.
5. Be Sensitive to Differences in Communication Functions • Task/Work Function • Social/Maintenance Function • Motivation Function • Integration Function • Innovation Function • The interdependence among the functions is key. Sometimes management may value the task-oriented function most, but a weakness in any of the other areas can affect task communication.
6. Check the Quality of Communication Relationships • Superior-Subordinate Relationships • Trust • Amount of message exchange • Communication style of supervisor • Coworker Relationships • Manager Relationships • Unit Relationships • The Rules Governing Relationships • Procedures or content
7. Plot Communication Networks • Formal • Informal • Communication Roles • Isolates • Group Members • Liaisons • Virtual positions • Technology - Email
8. Review the Organization as a Communication System • Systems theorists look holistically at the unit being audited. The system is the total unit or organization being examined, but it is made up of many subsystems that one can define according to one’s purpose. • The systems perspective calls attention to the way things are related, and it underscores the fact that the isolation of any one variable often distorts one’s perceptions.
8. Review the Organization as a Communication System • An important way to distinguish how systems operate within their environments is to label them as closed or open. • The closed system is insulated and has apparently impermeable boundaries so that it does not react to and is not influenced by what goes on around it. • An open system is one in which communication enables the organization to sense its environment and to adapt to the changes taking place.
8. Review the Organization as a Communication System • Six subsystems: • Individual to individual – same unit • Individual to individual – across • Unit to unit • Individual to organization • Work unit to organization • Environment to each of the other components
9. Relate Communication to Organizational Outcomes • Satisfaction • Profitability and Costs • Productivity • Organizational Commitment
9. Relate Communication to Organizational Outcomes • Satisfaction – In a real sense most communication assessments are heavily based on satisfaction. • Satisfaction becomes the standard by which employees judge their organization.
9. Relate Communication to Organizational Outcomes • Positive links with Satisfaction and • Openness in communication • Communication relationships • Communication load • Communication apprehension • Nonverbal behavior • Communication style • Amount of feedback • Congruence of communication rules • Accuracy of communication • Organizational commitment • Communication from top management • Communication satisfaction • Communication quality
9. Relate Communication to Organizational Outcomes • Profitability and Costs • As important as it is, communication is costly. • Expense considerations are legitimate and necessary aspects of communication assessments.
9. Relate Communication to Organizational Outcomes • Productivity • There is considerable evidence that communication can be directly related to productivity. • Because communication is just one of many variables affecting productivity, one needs to be careful in claiming that a given communication phenomenon always affects productivity in a certain way.
9. Relate Communication to Organizational Outcomes • Productivity • Specifying exactly how communication’s particular components influence behavior can be difficult. • Research merely points out that any aspect of communication may be related to productivity