I am in dire peril of acquiring a hobby-horse about this. Most of the problems with corporate life can be resolved by the liberal application of at least one of the words used in the title of this posting.

Communication consists of several components.

Listening and checking understanding, having the correct paths of communication and the ability to express one’s self in an effective manner.

Listening is about a lot more than merely registering sounds. You may hear but do you really listen? To do this properly you have to stop what you are doing and initiate a proper dialogue.

How often has a husband replied to a wife with a bored sounding “Yes Dear”?

She will soon catch on and ask a question that may cost a lot of money.

Imagine the scene:

“Hello, how was work today?”


“That’s nice dear. Did Peter come to work today? ”

“Mmm Hmm!”

“Well that’s a flippin’ miracle, he died three years ago.”

You can see what I mean. At work this kind of non-communication can be really serious. Take the job I had this week: I needed a circuit board for a printer; I quoted the part number and the model of the printer. There was a supply glitch with the board but I was assured that one could be obtained by removing one from a scrap machine. No problem, I was told, they are all the same.

The item was sent out and I drove the 90 miles to fit it.

Soon after removing the covers I found to my consternation that it was completely different to the one I had condemned. It took over an hour and seven phone calls to get anyone to take me seriously.

I evaluated the situation. Had I failed to make myself clear? Had the request been properly understood? What could I have done to make myself understood? I called again, this time with the parts book PDF open in front of me. I quoted the page number, referred to the illustration number and the parts list on the next page. I didn’t think I could be any clearer.

The paths of communication aren’t ideal. In the areas I work in mobile phone signals aren’t always the best and sometimes people say that it is difficult to hear me.

I went to my nearest McDonalds restaurant, I’m not a fan of the food but they do have wireless access points that are free to use. I emailed the relevant pages to the person I was trying to communicate with, waited for him to open the mail then called again.

“Now can you see which part I need?”

“What is the model of the printer?”

I told him.

“I don’t have that one on my system.”

“Well that is the model number that is marked on the case of the printer,”

“Can you send me a picture of it?”

I snapped a quick shot of it and sent it via MMS.

“Ah! That’s not a **** it’s a ****, they were re-badged with that number between July 2005 and August 2007, I know what you need now!”

I am always amazed at the frequent changes of model number, mostly for cosmetic reasons. It makes a very big bar to communication. I try to communicate the cost of such events; to travel those distances, to fail the customer, for whatever reason is very costly. They don’t care about our problems they just see that their equipment is not working.

The blame game is totally non-productive, unless it provides steps that we can take to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

If there is a lot of blame and recrimination people are less willing to reveal their failings and we have a tough time of curing such problems.

I’m sure that there will be a review of this case in the future, I just hope that the communication is good and that we can learn from the situation, otherwise it will have been a huge waste of time.

I encounter many problems at work. The technical problems can be sorted out fairly easily, that’s what we do. The problems that are harder to clear up are the ones that stem from what the psychologists refer to as “Communication Misses.”

When we use artificial means of communication the opportunities for making mistakes increase exponentially.

Why is it that when we use a two-way radio we go to great lengths to ensure that the message had been heard and understood, yet with a telephone we are so much more blasé about it?

Using a radio we say “Over” to indicate that we are ready for the other person to speak, mainly because the communication is not fully duplexed. With a phone we can talk over each other, even do other things whilst we speak. Because we talk telephony for granted we are in peril of not using it to its best potential.