Last issue’s maintenance connections column ("What’s in a word?") dealt with communication quality and accountability when sending and receiving information in written versus verbal format. All of these columns position members of the maintenance department as direct senders and receivers of information between themselves, all other internal corporate departments (engineering, purchasing, production, etc.), and outside agencies (consultants, contractors, suppliers, etc).
A common denominator in every linked connection is the human factor. People do not send instruction or reports to computers, they send them to people who look at databases in computers. People do not send requisitions or reports to other departments or agencies, they send them to people who work for those departments or agencies. Effective communication relies on the fact that the person sending information understands the people in his or her audience.
The 5 Cs of communications
What does the word communication mean to you? If a communication is to be effective it must contain content that is structured; five structural elements of a good communication are:
1. Clarity: the meaning of the communication must be clear. Is the message a direct instruction to be completed in a defined time period, or is the message for informational purposes only? Always state the purpose of the communication in the title.
2. Coherence: cognizance of the audience’s level of understanding is crucial. The message must mean something to the person reading it. Jargon should be avoided and acronyms spelled out.
3. Consistence: communication process should be formalized and the communication format standardized — consistency eliminates reader confusion and leads to credibility and trust.
4. Conciseness: to be concise the message must be written objectively and without ambiguity. All data and information contained within the message must be correct, not fabricated.
5. Completeness: achieved through anticipating questions on the message content.
The five Cs provide a framework from which to base a communication strategy. If truly effective communication were merely a replicable product of the five Cs, communication problems would cease to exist. Unfortunately, regardless of strategy, communication problems will remain as long as the human factor is ignored.
The human factor
Place a person in a positive work environment and the person will nearly always respond in a positive manner. People like structure — communication structure is a cornerstone of corporate and personal well being and contributes directly to a positive working environment.
According to Carl Jung, a leading psychologist of the early 1900s and developer of the "theory of personality type", people can be classified into different personality types. Jung’s theories were later translated into a practical personality type indicator chart, known as the MBTI, or Myers Briggs Type Indicator by two U.S. psychologists, Myers and Briggs, and used widely in business and industry to help people better understand how their personality type can best communicate with other personality types. For each individual, Jung subscribes four basic personality traits:
1. (E) Extroversion / (I) Introversion: an extrovert is more likely to voice an immediate "off the cuff" opinion, whereas an introvert likes to think a while before giving a reply.
2. (S) Sensing / (N) Intuitive: a sensing individual likes to pour over details (micro management) while an intuitive personality is a "big picture" person (macro manager).
3. (T) Thinking / (F) Feeling: thinking individuals tend to be more impersonal and make objective decisions based on facts only. Feeling individuals are subjective in nature and base decisions on how they affect people.
4. (J) Judgement / (P) Perception: the judgmental personality likes to live and operate in a decisive, planned and orderly environment while a perceiver chooses to operate within a more spontaneous, adaptive or flexible environment.
For example, an ENTJ personality is classified as a natural leader and organization builder, and is a big picture thinker who makes decisions objectively. Do you recognize your personality, and how you like to receive information?
Understanding and tailoring the information for the person receiving the communication is crucial. When presenting reports to other departments and agencies, ask the person receiving the report how they would like the information presented to them. If the audience is more than one person, you may have to prepare and present the report in detail form complete with an executive overview or summary.
Understanding yourself allows you to instruct people on how you like to receive information. The essence to effective communication is to know and understand yourself and your audience — the human connection is perhaps the most difficult connection to master and is always under construction.
Ken Bannister is a principal management consultant with Engtech Industries Inc. in Cambridge, Ontario. You can reach Ken at (519) 622-4211 or by e-mail at email@example.com