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Top 5 Causes of Communication Failure
On April 9, 2015 / By Jenna Howe

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In a world where unread emails abound, effectively communicating to colleagues, employees and customers is getting more and more difficult. Communication fails for many reasons, and both the message sender and receiver contribute to the breakdown. The effects of communication failure range from losing sight of group goals to more immediate problems like safety hazards and regulatory issues.

Communication most often fails for the following reasons:

1. Using technical jargon.

When conversations turn technical, anyone without the referenced expertise will tune out. The same way most people throw away user manuals or automatically check “I have read the Terms and Conditions” boxes, readers will disregard communication they don’t understand.

Talking about IP addresses to a user who is unable to open his or her accounting application frustrates everyone. Explain technical terms if necessary, but for the most part, use common language when addressing a broad audience.

2. Overloading the audience.

More written words don’t always translate to high importance information. Most people won’t take the time to read digital information that requires scrolling through multiple pages.

Layouts with bold titles, differentiated subtitles and bullet points help readers visually organize information. Create documents that are visually appealing by:

  • Using descriptive headlines so the audience can scan a document and walk away with a grasp of the main points.
  • Limiting emails to 4-5 bullet points with relevant information.
  • Using graphs and visuals to explain complicated details or highlight important instructions.

In face-to-face communication, the same principles apply. Start with a clear meeting agenda, invite only the people who need to be there, and set a goal for what the group will accomplish.

3. Assuming foreknowledge or relationships.

At the start of a meeting, ask a few simple yes-or-no questions in order to gauge how familiar the audience is with the information. This will prohibit too much or too little information being shared.

Quickly review key decisions from previous meetings if necessary, but make sure that the discussion is relevant to the current audience.  Prior to each meeting, send links to important background information.

Make introductions as soon as new parties get involved. If a team member is replaced, update contact lists right away. Bring new people up to speed in one-on-one meetings—don’t use group time to review unless new decisions need to be made.

4. Using the wrong delivery channel.

Communication doesn’t always have to be via email. There are alternative ways to get information across effectively. Use slide share programs, meetings, and information posted in highly trafficked places to disseminate information.

Graphics and interactive videos are good for demonstrating software features or new processes. Visuals can easily depict step-by-step instructions. Consider making side-by-side comparisons of changes so the audience can see what is different.

5. Sending irrelevant information.

The best way to approach communication is by starting with the audience. Be clear about what the email/graphic/video/presentation should accomplish and convey the information truthfully. If the audience needs to take action, make sure they know what and why. Finally, let the users know how the message impacts them—what do they get out of knowing the information or taking the requested action?

In the case of multiple audience groups, create multiple messages. Ask, why does this group of people need to know this? How will this message impact this audience? What is the best way to deliver the information? Make sure that the message is simple and concisely delivers the relevant information.

Communication is critical for all change management activities. Trenegy helps organizations implement change programs for ERP selection, ERP implementation and acquisition integration.