Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Communicating Strategically

While managers usually think strategically about their businesses, they tend to overlook the importance of strategically communicating with their constituencies. In order to correct this, they must know who their constituencies are, the attitudes of constituencies toward the organization and what a particular constituency knows about the topic on which management wishes to communicate. The case study in Chapter 2 outlining an internal communication problem within the Carson Container Company is a prime example of how time, human resources and money can be wasted if a company fails to recognize and analyze their constituency.

Several years ago, as the marketing assistant for a scientific equipment manufacturer, I was appointed by the marketing manager to oversee the introduction and implementation of a line of plumbing fixtures into our existing product line. Early in the process, I failed to recognize, and was not informed of the importance of meeting with the estimating and sales staffs to give them details about the new product and discuss with them all new and impending developments. Instead, I sent out dozens of memos giving directives on related issues without asking for input. As a result, I alienated the very people who would be promoting these fixtures in the field. Because these two constituencies worked very closely, they each fed off the other's resentment and dissatisfaction. Morale plummetted. Time, money and resources were wasted because I had to rework a number of processes to everyone’s satisfaction. I had to recruit extra staff and lost valuable time “mending fences.” All of this could have been avoided had I recognized my constituencies, primarily the estimating and sales staffs, and analyzed what it would take for them to support my efforts. The following link is an article from Business Day that discusses the importance of effective internal communications.


  1. I can fully understand Faye's situation. Scientific equipments require much more technical support than normal goods. Sometimes, it will cost weeks to train customers to use those sophisticated equipments properly. Therefore, the firms really need effective communication among the whole organization.

    My experience

    When I was working in a lab in the university as an undergraduate, our group just about to began a researching project. One group member and I were responsible for the first stage of the project -- to solve a series of complicated equations for a specific polyelectrolyte system. This was a relatively new area so that we have to complete the entire frame by ourselves, including basic physics theory, mathematical methods and computation algorithm.

    After we structure the basic framework and complete the computer coding part, we found us failed. I thought it was the mathematical methods. However, the other member insisted the problem arose from computation algorithm. We were working in a same office. Theoretically, there was no problem of the communication channel, since we could talk in person whenever we want. However, the critical communication was absent. We seldom communicated with each other. We worked on our own part using our own methods in different direction. As a result, when I left the lab after my graduation, the problem remained unsolved. We "wasted" more than two months of time. And people of the whole group were really frustrated, since many further works were planned after our complete of the calculation. If we communicate effectively and thus work together on the same track, we might have successfully finished our job on time.

    Compare to business operation, scientific research or R&D processes in firms are with more individualism and therefore require more strategic communication to insure a success.

    More information about communication in scientific research:

  2. Placing comments in two parts as HTML coding cannot accept more than 4096 charaters at a time!!

    Introduction to Communicating Strategically

    There are three subsets of communication strategy: (1) determining the objectives for a specific communication, (2) deciding what resources are accessible for achieving those objectives, and (3) diagnosing the organizations reputation.

    Determining Objectives

    There can be many different reasons for organizations to decide to communicate. An organization, for example, could decide to decrease the wages of its employees, make cut offs in its work force, or eliminate retiree plans. All those reasons make communications to the specific group of interest necessary. The basic question for an organization to determine its objectives is: What does the organization want each constituency to do as a result of the communication?

    Deciding What Resources Are Available

    An organization has to know what resources are available in order to effectively communicate the determined objective. Those resources mostly include money, human resources, and time.

    Diagnosing the Organization’s Reputation

    It is important for an organization to know what reputation it has. Reputation is based on the constituency’s perception of the organization. Besides an overall good reputation, organizations can have a limited or damaged credibility reputation. Limited reputation is the case when organizations are only known in a narrow range of constituencies.


  3. Life Experience Example

    I cite an example from my final year of engineering. Every student was supposed to turn in an electronics project which was necessary in order to achieve an Electronics and Communication Engineering degree. The whole batch of 70 students was divided into groups of 5 and I was the coordinator of my team and was responsible for all the activities of my team members. In the initial stage of the project I placed several ideas which we could have actually developed but it was hard to get everyone to a consensus. So I came up with a solution and asked my team members to jot down pros and cons of each idea and their suggestions if any. We met after a couple of days and finally decided to work on “Entry Excess Control System”. The next objective was to make a “Bill of Material” and collect the components in order to actually make the controller system. So I divided the group into two and asked one team to search the components in one market and another team to search in another market. Since time frame was short, we communicated through sending text to one other team informing what all components one team has got, so that other team could look up for other components. After couple of days we got all our components. We then sat down and started to work on the project, building it part by part. Finally our project was complete. But while testing the project one of the components got fused due to high power transmission and we were in a situation similar to the one we had 4 months back. It was nearly impossible for us to redesign the project; however the only solution was to fix the problem-the fused component. In order to find out which component has actually got fused we required the high tech-machines which was available only at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). In order to use the IIT machine, we required permission from Dean and hence our next task was to convince the dean, so we actually made a short presentation describing how effective our project would be and how much beneficial would it be to the college. The dean luckily agreed and we finally fixed the bug.

    I must say in order to communicate strategically one must know well about the subject, should have a group consensus, should have strong communicating skills, and most importantly should have the skill to impress and persuade people. We can relate the example to the three subsets of strategic communication. First, we have to determine the objective for strategic communication which in our case was designing and developing the project and fixing of the bug. Second, using the present resources we had for communicating and achieving our objective. While persuading the Dean of IIT all five members acted as a team and everyone put in his best effort for the success of the project, getting an appointment with the dean was not easy. We all used our respective personal pull to get the appointment with the dean. We also made several communications with the secretary of the dean and then got one. Besides these, we used to communicate with every other team member the details of each and every minute thing done during the day so that everyone knows what have been done in the project. Furthermore, our communication channel included face-to-face communication, chat-rooms provided by the college, Skype, and e-mails. Finally, we actually diagnosed our organization reputation (which in our case was a group of 5 students) by fixing the problem and presenting our project on time.

    A strategically well communication is essential for the success of any task.

    Suggested Links:

    Must watch this video!!

  4. I totally agree with you when you come to new work environment you should consult with and take advice from your experienced employees to prevent any major problem or miscommunication. I have story of mine, which is similar to what I have read in concept.
    During my years as a branch bank manager in Saudi Arabia, I have had several conflicts regarding communication. My famous one that I recall was after a month of hiring me. A customer transferred 200,000 Riyals through the teller. This process usually takes 2 business days to be completed. However, the transaction was never been processed. The customer complained about it, which lead me to take a look into the problem personally. I found that the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) have regulated the limit of the international transfer up to 50,000 Riyals to process through the bank in a regular manner. Above the pointed limit would require special procedure that goes through SAMA itself. The bank headquarter never informed its branches by this new regulation which have been implemented months ago. Therefore, I requested an official memo to update each branch by the new regulation and any new regulations to avoid further miscommunication and dissatisfaction of the customers.
    I have learned that miscommunication throughout the organization can lead to loss a potential customers especially in the banking business. It is imperative to be sure that every one is informed of what are the updates regulation and policies that issued by the bank or SAMA.

  5. Reliable and effective communication is critical factor in success of any organization. Organization adaptability to internal and external change in an organization depends on efficient communication. Therefore organizations have to maintain cohesive communication culture.

    My Experience:

    I totally agreed with Faye’s point of view. I also had experienced the similar kind of problem when I was working with my father to help him in his business. My father thought of increasing the employee benefits. The purpose was to increase the productivity and satisfaction of the employees. We offered inside workers to invest in our business. The interest rate we offered was greater than the market interest rate. I was given the responsibility to communicate this idea to workers. I prepared the MEMOS in local language and distributed them to workers. Only 30% of the workers responded in a period of 1 month. I was not happy with the limited number of responses. I met all the workers personally to know the reason of their rejection of the plan. The reason I found is that I failed to recognize that most of the workers are uneducated and they do not know how to read and write. I already had wasted enough time and money on this plan and now I have to start again from the scratch. I prepared video which explains the benefits of the plan and recruited staff which can talk with workers personally. Therefore specific medium of communication should be used for specific constituency. This will help organization to communicate with each constituency effectively.

    The more comprehensive view of this kind of problem can be read in this article:
    “Internal Communication Strategies - The Neglected Strategic Element by Robert Bacal”

    Related link:

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  7. I can relate to Faye’s comments. The lack of effective communication can tie up resources, both financial and nonfinancial. Strategic communication is not an asset; it’s a necessity and should be handled as such.

    My Example

    A few years ago I was working as co-program administrator for a non-profit summer program. The duties of a program administrator consist of direct interaction with students in the program as well as maintain records for future funding. Record keeping in this case requires employees to log the hours of a particular activity and the number of participating students. When the program ended, the executive director requested the records to include in the following years proposals. However, the record keeping was inadequate and as a result the organization did not receive funding the following year. The problem in this example is the lack of strategic communication. The employees were told that they needed to keep records however it was only briefly mentioned during the first meeting prior to the programs commencement. The importance of this task was not communicated to the employees. As a result the critically important funding was lost. This problem could have been avoided. For example the if the importance of record keeping could have been reiterated during future meetings or a memo could have been sent out focusing on the significance of this task.

    Suggested Link

    The following link deals with nursing which is not directly related to my experience. However it does highlight the strategy and importance of communication.


    The art of communication. By: Grove, Bob, Occupational Health, 00297917, Feb2009, Vol. 61, Issue 2

  8. Improved communications through the effective use of information technologies play a large role in bridging gaps and breaking down barriers between organizations. Because of certain technological breakthroughs such as electronic mail and videoconferencing, subordinates can communicate to their superiors more easily and information can spread more efficiently. These improvements have also been proven to be more effective and cost efficient. With more effective communications, the sender and receiver reach an understanding and they both can move on to achieve goals and objectives.

    In my experience, I worked one Summer at Huntington National Bank where the headquarters was based in Ohio. Once a month, every branch manager in northwest Pennsylvania had a conference call with the regional manager to discuss the financial performance of the region. Then my branch manager would review the meeting minutes with everyone in the branch to make sure that we all understand the objectives of upper-level management. This is a perfect example of communicating strategically via the chain of command.

  9. Background of Similar Experience

    I can identify with Faye's experience in that the consequences for failing to communicate strategically can be quite costly. A few years ago, I was in charge of a small project dealing with natural gas line replacements here in Indiana. Normally, the client I was consulting for kept a standardized inventory of pipe. The pipe in their inventory was from the same manufacturer, supplied by the same vendor, and consistent in diameter size, wall thickness, and pressure rating.

    A brief lesson in fluid mechanics & gas flow dynamics

    The system we were replacing consisted of a network of 2" diameter steel piping, and the new piping network was planned using 3" diameter plastic piping. As you know, steel is many more times structurally stronger that plastic and is able to safely operate at much high pressures. Without getting into boring mathematical explanations and physics lessons, basically larger diameter pipes operated a lower pressures are able to carry the same, or in most cases, larger flow volumes than smaller piping at higher pressures. Anyway, the key critical element in this case, was the proper sizing of the new pipeline. When the pipe diameter size needed to achieve the same daily volumes at a safe pressure rating was calculated, the result called for a pipe with a slightly different wall thickness to what was stored in the inventory.

    The problem

    The engineer I was working with at the time failed to communicate this with me, which in turn, led to my failure to communicate this with the inventory department and the construction crew. Now, the engineer did communicate this detail with the client, and the client did place a special order with its supplier for the pipe. To compound the problem, the client and I failed to cross check. The construction crew took pipe out of the inventory and began work on the project. By some miracle, I called the client and asked him a question about performing an upcoming inventory audit. It was then I discovered the problem and was able to stop the construction crew. However, the crew had worked for two days and installed some of the wrong pipe. This problem set me back a little over 4 days on the project along with freight costs on the wrong material, not to mention disappointment from the customer.

    The remedy

    After a few meetings, we determined that our failure to properly communicate with the client was due to a lack of a proper feedback and cross checking system. We designed a new system in conjunction with the client to prevent this problem from happening again. Our objective was to improve overall quality control in inventory management. We determined that our most important resources in this situation were our human resources. The client's quality control department designed new paper forms requiring a contractor field signature and a client signature before any projects could proceed. My advice to anyone in any field of industrial business is to make sure you have open lines of communication in quality control. Your reputation depends on it!

  10. I agree with Faye Catlos about communicating strategically that managers today must understand their constituencies better in order to convey a message or to make a proper communication. Using the right channel for right kind of message is also very important.

    Personal Experience:

    I work in the journal office as a graduate assistant. We send “Call for Paper” (which is like a brochure) to the authors to send their manuscripts/research papers to get published in the journals after evaluating them. We send this to more than 3000 peoples twice a year. Many times we receive returned mails because the person keeps on moving his address. This is a big problem for us because we can not get in touch with every person we have in the list who do not update their new address. Eventually we started getting less manuscripts/papers because of lack of communications with them.
    To rectify this issue we used today’s best & fastest communication method – e-mail. We made a database of email addresses all our people to whom we want to send this call for paper and we got success. This communication method was faster, cheaper and less time consuming than conventional mailing method.

    As I gave the link in my previous blog-comment about how email is replacing conventional ways in marketing the same kind of information the following link has about adapting email marketing strategy over conventional ways for better communications:

  11. I understand the problem and the following necessary actions from Faye. Straight large and internationally active companies come into being have communication problems. The article shows that South African Organisations are plagued by managing and communicating in silos. But it’s not only a problem in South Africa. In all companies that’s the same, when the management don’t communicate with each other it causes problems of ineffective employee and additional costs. Supplementary there are immence frustration for customers requiring information from different constituencies of the company.

    It is also important to use the right communication channel to distribute information to the board of management or to the employees. Depending on the size of your company, employees may feel alienated from upper-management. Massages containing complicated instructions or important news should include contact information for follow-up questions. It means you must make sure that the information and instructions are understood by the employees. Also it’s important to get an feedback if big working processes are changing.

    In my financial institution I make the experience about the workflow during the specification of the loan-parameters at the bank borrowing. The customer adviser don’t understand each detail of the condition. So I have to explain the procedure to get the right condition. In a similar way this also can be explained to the customer. I found an article in the Financial Times London, published on April 24 2009 about a CEO who works nearby his employees. So he get feedback and news from his employees hole the time. You can read my excerpt about an article in my blog entry. You can see the whole article “Chief executives break down barriers”:,Authorised=false.html?

  12. There is an other research from me. Referring to chapter two of the book “Corporate Communication” the human resources are also important about the communication in a company. The right way to communicate information is responsible for the success or failure of a company.

    The rule of a financial director changed in the last few years from a simple book-keeping to a strategy business expert. A international survey shows four-fifths of the asked Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) confirmed that their role was getting more strategically demanding. The technical requirements increased in the same way. The conversion from the traditional accounting to IFRS is the main assignment from a Financial Director (FD) nowadays. The FD is responsible for the right communication to the employees and between the members of the staff. Both the CFO and the FD are responsible for the right communication in the company. Furthermore, it’s necessary that the employees have the experience to implement the information.

    I support the management in my financial Institution to create and to communicate the business strategy and risk strategy. Also the requirements have increased in the last few years in an enormously way. The distributions of the information have to be faster and more coherent. Anyway, the distribution channels became more various in my financial institution.

    My additional comment based on a currently "real-world" example from my occupation. The topic from the chapter two was pick up in an article from the “Financial Times London”, published February 14th 2008. Complete in electronic form – the link will give the whole article.

    “More than keeping an eye on the money"