Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Failure to Communicate

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion
that it has taken place.
― George Bernard Shaw

Clarity is king is my tagline, because communication and comprehension are different things.

In Harvard Business Review, business professor Donald Sull tells the story of a CEO who held monthly meetings to communicate strategy.

The CEO was pleased with herself after an employee survey showed 84% of her managers agreed with the statement, “I am clear on our organization’s top priorities.”

But when a follow-up survey asked the managers to list the top five strategies, fewer than 33% could name even two.

When the same survey is conducted at other companies, results show, on average, only 55% of middle managers can name even one company strategy.

That figure plummets to 16%, when frontline managers take the survey.

Why does communication so often fail?

Sull gives three reasons. CEOs:
  • Dilute the message. One company he studied has not only a long list of corporate strategies and objectives, but a list of corporate priorities, a list of corporate values, a list of core competencies, and a dictionary of strategic terms.

  • Change the message constantly.

  • Measure communication of the message by inputs—documents, e-mails and meetings—instead of understanding, "the only metric that actually counts."

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