Teach Staff to Choose the Right Medium for the Message

Workers should choose an appropriate delivery mechanism for the message. For example, employees should use email for the exchange of information and asking questions, two functions it performs very well. Email is less appropriate for resolving disagreements, getting to know someone, or negotiation. For these functions, encourage staff to use:

  • Team spaces or wikis, which can accommodate lengthier discussion and collaboration paths
  • In-person meetings, to explain details clearly
  • The telephone, to encourage real-time give-and-take to avoid misunderstandings

Regardless of the medium chosen, staff should be reminded that electronic communication may be monitored and/or archived as a matter of company policy. Or if this isn’t company policy, staff should heed the old rule of not putting anything on the computer they don't want people to see on tomorrow's front page.

... Janet Asteroff (editor: Richi Jennings)

One Comment

  1. Posted May 26, 2006 at 12:09 PM | Permalink

    In addition to those you mention, another approach many organizations are using to improve communications efficiency is persistent group chat.

    In other words, chat rooms that are persistent (as opposed to temporal like an IM chat), organized by topic (around customers, products, operational teams, etc), and use intelligent filtering to notify users when important discussions are occuring. Many people are familiar with chat rooms but do not realize that they are now an important business tool.

    Why are they important? Because they combine the synchronous and asynchrnous aspects of the other approaches you mention:

    – Unlike email, it is great for asking a simple question to a *large* group of people and managing a large number of answers. Email is OK if you need to ask a small group, it cannot handle the synchronous discussion that often occurs when you attempt to engage a large team at once.
    – Unlike email it allows you to organize questions and discussions so that more than just the people on the distribution list can benefit from the questions and answers.
    – Unlike email, it is *great* for resolving disagreements involving a lot of back-and-forth discussion and it is great for building informal social networks and relationships.
    – Unlike wikis and blogs, it is easier to follow an entire conversation without jumping through a lot of pages and sites. And, because of the intelligent filtering it is much easier to hone in on the important discussions without having to read through numerous pages and monitor large lists of rss feeds.
    – Unlike telephone and in-person meetings, it can provide a real-time (synchronous)exchange of ideas *and* support asynchronous dialogue. Ppeople who are not available can join an ongoing conversation later and be brought up to speed quickly– something that cannot happen if the meeting was held via phone or in person.

    Organizations that have adopted persistent group chat have found that their employees spend less time worrying about the best way to send a message and more time communicating with each other. In fact, they find that it increases effectiveness of the other approaches because it serves as a control center for launching into phone calls, blogs, wikis, portals, etc.

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