Other than the traditional friendly face to face conversation, where communication resembles babbling, mixed with hand and face gestures with no accompanying structure or purpose other than entertainment, Communication within a larger audience must have a structure to succeed.
Pointer Number One: Structure
In an organizational or business environment a two-way structured system of communication is essential for success. It must be established who is in ultimate command, but there must be a positive avenue for replying back up the communication ladder to the "Boss" without fear of retribution.
The manager of a baseball team is the "Boss" on the playing field. There must be a structure for him to communicate to his coaches how or what he wants his players to perform. This is accomplished in a pre-determined set of signals, either physical or verbal, which the manager indicates to his coach.
Very structured, manager to coach through established signals. However, the coach requires an avenue to reply to the manager. For instance, the manager may call for the runner on first base to attempt to steal second base, but the coach saw the runner twist his ankle getting back to first base on the last pitch which would greatly hinder his chances of a successful steal.
Being better informed than the manager, the coach must have an avenue to rebuke the called steal, most likely with pre-determined signals, without repercussions from the manager. Obviously this requires trust within the organization, believing everyone has the same goal, success of the team.
The business world should adopt many of the principles which guide baseball teams, which would result in more successfully operated companies. I have personally witnessed the Facility Engineer, imitating pulling his hair out while holding a phone conversation with a vice-president in management, who in spite of his impression of himself, was quite ignorant of the particular subject being discussed.
This is an everyday scenario in the business world and reflects a lack of trust and understanding which baseball takes for granted.
Pointer Two: Flexibility
Any command communication structure must retain a certain amount of flexibility, which can be very difficult to determine to what extent this flexibility goes.
For instance, a manager on a professional baseball team may have designated Pitcher A to begin the weekend series, but the pitching coach notices the Pitcher has developed a nauseas stomach during warm ups which would prevent him from pitching effectively. Time is of the essence in this particular situation, so there must be enough flexibility in the communication system for the pitching coach to make an instant decision to get Pitcher B up and throwing before asking the manager's permission.
This built-in flexibility in the communication structure allowed Pitcher B the opportunity to adequately warm up and mentally compose himself before the manager even knew the problem.
Again, business would bode well to take baseball's lead in flexible communication. For example, 40 years ago GM (General Motors) had such a rigid, uncompromising communication system within their engineering department, it greatly contributed to GM's troubles and near collapse.
If an engineering design flaw, such as a hole drilled off center by a machine in the former assembly area and was creating major problems, but was easily and quickly rectifiable, had to be communicated and approved by the engineering department Vice-President before corrective action could be taken. An in-house production issue, which should have taken perhaps 4 to 5 hours to correct, required an 8 month communication scenario and then it may be denied for lack of information.
The ability to properly Communicate is a basic human need which when performed by 2 or 3 people face to face, is normally not a problem. However, when the need to Properly Communicate expands into a larger arena there must be structure with built in flexibility in order for it to succeed.
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