Communicate, communicate, communicate, we were told. All the problems go back to communication. This is your default culprit. In doubt, say there was a communication problem and then at least you have just communicated it.
‘Communication’, as a problem or not, has become meaningless. It’s equivalent to a breathing problem, or a darkness problem or a sleeping problem. Unless you tell me more, anything can be there, anything goes.
So, if a team does not work, we say they have a communication problem. If strategy is poorly implemented, we blame it on a communication problem. We say this group, or that people, don’t listen. That manager does not communicate well. The messages don’t get through.
The organization is seen as a colossal traffic problem, and the leadership team sits at the Traffic Control Centre. If we just adjust and calibrate the content, the pace, the channels and the sequences, all will be fine.
Communications ‘problems’ are seen by people, almost invariably, problems by deficit. Almost never we dare to say that we may communicate too much. And to me there is a significant pathology here: over-communication, instead of lack of it.
The reality is often different. The channels get saturated. The screens are bombarding. The task of redirecting pieces of communication takes up a lot, if not all, of air time. Employees have become information dealers and managers their Information Traffic Wardens.
If there is a pending discipline it’s the art of communicating less. If we did that, people would have to learn to seek information, to find it, to ask ‘who would know about that?’ Less saturation in the channels would create space for reflection, even thinking – the latter, I’m told, has been seen around before and used to be fruitful.
I don’t believe that you solve ‘communication problems’ with more communication. Sure you can control the pain with painkiller drugs, but you’d better understand what that recurrent, nagging, pervasive, ubiquitous pain is all about.
My favourite saint, patron of Viral Change™ said it: ‘preach the Gospel all the time; when necessary use words’.