Communication audits: building world class communication systems.
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Effective internal communication is a vital pre-requisite for the functioning of all organisations. Yet it is a commonplace that communication is poor in most. Employees complain that they neither know nor understand corporate priorities, while frustrated senior managers insist that they have invested a great deal of time in explaining them. There is additional evidence that information transmission from the bottom to the top is also defective, with employees and even managers fearing to articulate their true opinions to those further up the hierarchy (Rosenfeld et al., 1995). Thus, senior managers often have a very limited understanding of the communication dynamics within their own organisation. In our own research in this field, we have frequently found that the people most surprised by audits which point to problems are the senior management team (Hargie and Tourish, 2000). The result can be a climate of mutual suspicion rather than trust, with energies that should be focused on beating the competition squandered in internal struggles. In this chapter, we suggest that the key to building a world-class communication system lies in managers having an accurate picture of how well they and everyone else are actually communicating. In a nutshell, we advance a twofold argument: 1. All organisations need a focused communication strategy, designed to build a world class system for sustaining internal communications. 2. The first step in implementing the above is that current practice must be rigorously and honestly evaluated, utilising communication audit techniques. We then discuss in-depth how audits can be implemented, and the data collection options available. While the main focus of this chapter is upon internal communications, audits are also of importance for external communications, and so we raise issues of relevance to the latter area as well.
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