The other day I posted out a blog called Duplicate Conversation. It seemed to hit a chord with a few people, which was great and a number of tweets/emails/comments came in thanking me for some advice on how to deal with the duplicate conversations.
But I’m afraid to tell you I was wrong. That post was always going to be a lead post to a more complex series of posts on communication. As Michael Bolton rightly pointed out in a comment is that communication doesn’t take place unless the intended recipient is involved.
And that’s why the last post is wrong. I mixed the words communication, message and conversations intentionally, but at a deeper understanding level, they are two different things.
The communication is not taking place more than once, because we are conversing with different people. Therefore it is a different communication thread, stream or session. In a sense, my last post technically talked about repeating the same “message”, not the same communication.
When we start to take the analysis down to a level below what most people typically care about we start to see some interesting, and sometimes complex, processes and influences taking place. I also need to tidy up the language use and start to label things in a more, dare I say it, academic, fashion.
It’s not my intention to do too much of this sort of “academic talk” here; I have those types of conversation in “communication groups” on different forums. They make my head spin, and I intend to keep this blog above that level of discussions…mostly. But I do feel it would be important to clarify a few things about the intended message of the last post.
I have very few teachers and lecturers that stand out from my formal education but one of the most respected and trusted was my Communications lecturer and all round Guru – Noel Williams. He described every communication as having a “Purpose and Audience”.
He is a fantastic thought leader and his knowledge and insight to communication studies opened my eyes to a whole world of research and influence. He described every communication process as having an audience and a purpose, whether we know about them or not, or care about them also.
I’ve recently started adding “context” to that too, as I believe the environment/device/emotional state when you receive the communication is also a major factor in the success of that communication.
And so when I write, I define my target audience and my purpose, and then I use the appropriate language (as I perceive it) to describe my thoughts. This works fine when I get my target audience right. When I have multiple audiences with different levels of expectation…well, this is a lot harder to get right.
But that’s what fascinate me about communication. There’s more to it than just putting some words together and transmitting then in a medium.
You only succeed in communicating a message when the intended audience receive and understand your message. So in my last post I talked about repeating the communication. Not strictly true. I was talking about repeating the message to different people. This forms different communication threads or instances.
To complicate matters further the message you send is also susceptible to noise. But even more importantly is the fact you have to encode that message in the first place. And guess what? The person receiving the message also has to decode that message.
With encoding, transmitting, noise, receiving and decoding, there’s an awful lot of potential for ambiguity, lost messages and incomplete meaning. Specs? Tests? Reports? Meetings? <– They all suffer from this problem.
Here’s a diagram I like to use to show communication at a simple flow level. It’s schramm’s Model of Communication..there are others.
When I mentioned that Key Stakeholders were not present in meetings and other people took away different meaning, I was talking about exactly the above. Michael rightly pointed out:
“If the key stakeholder wasn’t present, communicaton didn’t happen for him or her. Meanwhile, the people who take away different actions and conclusions do so because they believe that communication has happened, but they interpreted what you said differently from your interpretation, apparently.”
For sure, the right audience wasn’t there and the message you thought you communicated, either got lost, got altered through influences of noise or was simply decoded in different way, by different people. Michael is right, communication never really took place with the stakeholder; the person you actually needed to receive that message.
Even the above skips out loads of technical stuff and I’ve simplified it far too much still but I hope it clears up a little about communication. I’ll be exploring a few elements of communication and sociology over the next year as I start to build my learning in this areas in to Testing.