Thursday, March 01, 2007

Miscommunication At Work

It was the very early days of my first job when a friend sent me a management miscommunication genre joke along the lines of the below. Same idea, different message and identically hilarious results. It reminded me of playing Chinese Whisper as kids. I was too green back then to appreciate the truth in it. For an old soldier this is not even funny.

The other kind of communication is the type that is bubbled up from the trenches all the way to the top. It often meets the same fate as this one from the CEO to the troops. Your boss wants a business case to take to the CIO to ensure his budget is not cut in the latest round of project portfolio rationalization ( a euphemism used to make the hoi polloi pay for the many sins and omissions of their senior level management)

You are tasked with getting the raw data from up to three levels deep, digesting and making a presentation out of it that translates techspeak to business-ese. You struggle to fit it all in the 10 slides which defines the attention span limit of your manager.

Your manager dumbs it up a few notches so his management can still make sense of it. What the CIO finally gets to see is supposedly the ultra-distilled essence of 50 pages of geek speak. It takes no more than 3 slides to get to the heart of the matter.

For some reason, the higher you go, the more visual you become. Verbiage has to replaced by colorful graphics to ensure successful communication. The font is big, the sentences short and the message very direct. It feels a whole lot like communicating to a group of three year olds. The decisions that result from these 3 slide pitches to the big honcho are black or white and often completely wrong. Back in the trenches, the folks who gave your their input think you are so phenomenally retarded, that the zoo would be too good for you. They gasp "WTF !!??" as you try to dodge them at the water cooler.

Miscommunication in office

Here is an example of miscommunication in a company, the boss of the company initiates a mail to invite his staff to witness an eclipse and how his message is passed by employees at different levels in the hierarchy and finally how it reaches to the staff...

Mail from CEO to Manager:

Today at 11 o’clock there will be a total eclipse of the sun. This is when the sun disappears behind the moon for two minutes. As this is something that cannot be seen every day, time will be allowed for employees to view the eclipse in the parking lot. Staff should meet in the lot at ten to eleven, when I will deliver a short speech introducing the eclipse, and giving some background information. Safety goggles will be made available at a small cost.

Mail from Manager to Department Head:

Today at ten to eleven, all staff should meet in the car park. This will be followed by a total eclipse of the sun, which will appear for two minutes. For a moderate cost, this will be made safe with goggles. The CEO will deliver a short speech beforehand to give us all some information. This not something that can be seen everyday.

Mail from Dept. Head to Floor Manager:

The CEO will today deliver a short speech to make the sun disappear for two minutes in the form of an eclipse. This is something that cannot be seen every day, so staff will meet in the car park at ten or eleven. This will be safe, if you pay a moderate cost.

Mail from Floor Manager to Supervisor:

Ten or eleven staff are to go to the car park, where the CEO will eclipse the sun for two minutes. This doesn’t happen every day. It will be safe, and as usual it will cost you.

Mail from Supervisor to Staff:

Some staff will go to the car park today to see the CEO disappear. It is a pity, this doesn’t happen everyday.

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