Good communication skills between individuals and in a group are an important foundation for the strategy design and formulation process. I was reminded of this when recently a colleague mentioned that there are three different channels involved in the communication process. Only when we pay attention to and master all three we achieve a sound communication process and get good business results.
The three channels to master during the communicaiton process are:
- Communication/speaking channel: This is simply the act of somebody speaking and trying to get a message across. What counts here is clearness, story telling capacities and the ability to express things in a language that the interlocutor understands (i.e. using the interlocutors reference frame not ones own).
- Affirmation/understanding channel: This is simply the act of listening of the interlocutor and his regular affirmation through nodding or saying "yes", "mhm" etc. On the other hand the person speaking should try to observe if his interlocutor is still with him and still understands the message trying to be conveyed. He can check if the interlocutor was not left behind by constantly analyzing affirmation signs (here "affirmation" does not necessarily mean an interlocutor agrees - here I'm just talking about the process of listening and following).
- Context/processing channel: This is the act of paying attention to and processing context by the person speaking and the interlocutor. Both have to constantly ask themselves questions like: is the counterpart distracted (e.g. because he has a meeting afterwards)? Is the topic discussed adequate to the place and moment of discussion? Is the communication relationship biased (boss/employee)? Is there tension in the room during a group discussion? Is anybody being left out in a group discussion? Does anybody show signs of wanting to speak?
In addition to these three channels I would add that people come from different backgrounds (e.g. IT, marketing, operations), have different experiences (e.g. work experience, living abroad) and have different mental models to process information (pragmatic, conceptual, world view). So even when people speak the same language they do not necessarily understand each other.
However, in the strategy design process it is essential that people try to excel at communication skills in order to craft useful strategic plans that achieve a buy-in. This implies that executives follow the basic rules of communication and aim at mastering the three communication channels outlined above. As a rule of thumb they may want to start with the following "bonmot":
- bad communicators only talk
- good communicators are able to listen
- great communicators adapt to context