Avoiding communication lines breakdown

As a company grows, one area that often becomes a bottleneck is communication. There are certain dynamics that take place in communications, as the number of people involved increases. For example, in a small, two-person company, there is often the greatest opportunity for direct conversation and discussion throughout the day. There are only two possibilities for verbal communication and it’s usually quick, easy and descriptive.

If, however, a third member is added to the team, then six possible lines of communication are created - an increase of 300%. Direct communication becomes more difficult and often messages are interpreted (or misinterpreted) in a variety of different ways.

Now, add a fourth team member and your communication possibilities increase to 12. A fifth person increases the possibilities to 20. That’s 20 different ways a message can be sent and interpreted.

At this point a “communication failure” can occur. At a time when the company should be focusing on growth and expansion, it is instead faced with confusion, misunderstanding and wasted time.

Here are a few tips for avoiding communication breakdown that may occur when the lines of communication become overwhelming:

  • Periodically pull together all members of the team. Choose one time to convey your message, new policies etc…. If possible, find a time when there are few distractions, such as when machines are shut down or when the phones aren’t ringing. There is often a strong case to meet away from the usual place of work.
  • If the message you plan to convey is long or complex, present it verbally, then distribute written copies of the same statement. This technique increases retention and understanding substantially.
  • When there are at least five team members, the company’s communications system becomes more formal and written communications - notes, reports, internal emails - become a part of daily operations.
  • When holding meetings, provide a quick review of what has transpired since the last meeting and what should be happening before the next one. The key to these meetings is that they be brief and held on a regular basis. It may be worthwhile to keep simple notes along the lines of:
  1. what was discussed
  2. what is pending
  3. what should be followed up
  4. items previous brought up that have been successfully handled
  5. what should be brought up at the next meeting …… and why

By having scheduled meetings, each team member knows that s/he will be briefed on all company matters that pertain to them. The lines of communication remain intact and one clear message is received by all. In addition, people will feel a bigger part of the company and will invariably respond positively to the common goals/growth objectives.