Several trends are making competence in communication more important today than ever before. First, the need to respond quickly to market changes creates the need for a less rigid and bureaucratic work environment. Information must quickly flow up, down, and across traditional channels. No longer is it enough to have a few skilled communicators at key nodal points. The need for fast response time requires everyone to be a competent communicator. People need clear ground rules governing such things as the rapid distribution of management updates.
Second, the emergence of loosely-bonded teams as the basic unit of business requires people to communicate effectively and reach decisions quickly. They need to know how to work through complex issues on their own and how to resolve conflicts without relying on a boss. Team members need to appreciate different styles of communicating and be competent at adjusting their style to fit any situation.
Third, the increasing number of people working in global organizations drives the demand for more skillful communicators. When people collaborate on projects from offices separated by thousands of miles, when cultural differences can exacerbate shortfalls in communication, the standard opportunities to build trust and goodwill simply don’t exist. Small misunderstandings can escalate into bigger conflicts. Knowing the tools for effective communication is therefore an essential – if not the essential – competency of the global corporation.
Fourth, technology is driving people toward new ways of communicating. More and more people are working in virtual offices, spread across multiple, sometimes moving, locations. At dozens of companies teleconferencing and e-mailing are replacing staff meetings. But virtual teams can grind to a virtual halt in a hurry if poor communication prevails. Technology has increased the volume of communications, but quantity has not improved quality. If the human software is not glitch proof, technology will inevitably increase the number of communication snafus.
Fifth, there is a wide recognition that the old ways of interacting among employees have simply reached the end of their useful life span. Today, new competitors arise so quickly that organizations that don’t continually change and improve are left in the dust. Organizational thinkers like Chris Argyris and Peter Senge have laid out strong, persuasive arguments for “learning organizations” in which culture, structure, and interpersonal behaviors create a process of continuous improvement.
Straight Talk® is a set of tools for people who aspire to be highly effective communicators. They are for people who need to know how to challenge their own thinking – and to engage others in the search to find effective solutions. Straight Talk® is intended to help build the social underpinnings of the twenty-first-century organization, where clear communication is the norm, not the exception. That’s the plan. Now let’s get to work.