Monthly Archives: October 2009

Communication breakdown…


Have you ever heard one of your clients or executives state: “what we need is a change management program”; or “we need a strategic workforce plan”; or “we need moreHR metrics”… One of my business partners recently shared a very useful framework for how breakdowns in communication can lead us astray and result in impulsive HR program design. It goes something like this:

  • We start with the actual business problem/opportunity; i.e. if we get more effective at implementing new systems we will gain market share.

There is often an understanding gap of what the actual business problem/opportunity is, and the executive/client’s understanding of what it is, which results in:

  • The client/executive’s misunderstanding of the problem/opportunity; i.e.”we are not good enough at managing the implementation of new systems”.  

There is then a communication gap that impacts the way the client/executive communicates the problem/opportunity which results in miscommunication:

  • i.e. “we need a change management program”…

There is a listening gap between what your client/executive says and what you hear which results in further miscommunication:

  • what you hear about the problem/opportunity; i.e.  “we need to train our managers on change”

The communication gaps multiply from there…

The gaps are not caused by stupidity, they are created because none of us are perfect at understanding, communicating or listening. These gaps are inevitable and mean that if you are trying to solve the problem that you heard your client / executive tell you is the problem; you are almost definitely working on the wrong thing. So take a moment to reflect, ask some questions and work to get to the root issue.  At the end of the day, most of business communication is one big game of telephone.