Communication Breakdown

manhole cover

As the band Led Zeppelin aptly put it—way back in 1969: “Communication breakdown. It’s always the same.” Truer words may have never been spoken; or wailed.

Man hole cover reading "communication"

Just search the phrase “communication breakdown in an organization” and you’ll get over a million results. Given the amount that has been written on this subject, it clearly effects many organizations and people.

The photo on the left is meant to illustrate one cause of communication breakdown in (or between) organizations: lack of transparency. This can happen for a number of reasons, both innocent and otherwise.

One example of a seemingly innocuous situation is where an employee of Company ABC communicates directly with an employee of Company XYZ. Together, they begin to make decisions which allow them to complete their individual tasks. Unfortunately, these independent decisions are unknown to their respective organizations, so the effects go unheeded until they surface at a later time. The ramifications of these decisions can come in the form of sullied relationships, loss of respect, or loss of time — all of them costly.

One Oxford Dictionary definition of the word communication is “The successful conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings.”* Organizations must work to ensure that their employees (well-meaning as they may be) are aware of the hidden costs associated with lack of transparency and unilateral decision making. Employees must also consider the needs of the larger organization before taking action.

Skeptics should go talk to their project manager.