Effective Communication in the Decision-Making Process: Kromite's Methodologies Create Solutions
Updated: Jul 2, 2019
By Peiran Zhao
Effective communication is a critical component to any successful collaboration between people and departments. Moreover, it helps to facilitate the process of sharing information, results and knowledge. When communication is compromised, all parties have the propensity to move forward operating only with their assumptions of what the others involved believe or understand. This is certainly true when tough decisions are on the table.
Often people aren’t on the same page when it comes to a problem with high uncertainty and complexity, therefore, clear and concise language exchange is extraordinarily important in the decision-making process. While conducting Decision Analysis for clients in different industries, we regularly witness varying degrees of gaps in communication. Some causes we have observed include a lack of commitment to the decisions being evaluated; inaccessibility of subject matter experts; or members of the project / decision-making team remaining silent on issues where their input could be pivotal. Within these projects, Kromite often observes such breakdowns and we have developed methodologies and approaches to quickly identify and rectify them. We have found that focusing on a few key things allows significant improvements.
1. Speak the same language
All industries and even companies within industries have their own jargon and acronyms. Even within the same organization, people from various departments or backgrounds may have their own ‘language’ when talking about the same topic. When these ‘languages’ collide, it becomes a nightmare for essential communication. Recently, we conducted Decision Analyses for a customer in the biotech industry. While they were talking about the performance of their product, people from Research and Development had a completely different understanding of the word ‘performance’ than people from the Sales Department. This caused additional challenges when setting the right frame for the decision-making.
To lessen these linguistic hurdles, it is important to try to cut all the possible ambiguity and not assume everyone can understand all the technical languages or use the same definition of the terms. That doesn’t mean we are suggesting oversimplification in the explanations or conversations especially when talking about something that is a technical or niche term. At the same time, it is still important to choose the right words and make sure everyone is on the same page. Communication with the same ‘language’ will help establish an effective mutual connection between diverse stakeholders who may have varied cultural and organizational backgrounds as well as multi-levels of expertise, perspectives and interests. In our project deliverables, we include a detailed dictionary of acronyms, terminologies in targeted fields, activities involved, key concepts and their clear definitions. Most importantly, we tailor the way information is presented to ensure that it is precise and delivered to right people.
2. Break the invisible wall
Invisible walls between departments are frequently caused by the lack of transparency and communication. When approaching decision-making primarily in brainstorming or looking for proper alternatives, these walls limit the free flow of information. A good practice is to try to encourage departments to regularly contribute to company message boards with news and information. This will provide an opportunity for employees to stay current on what is going on in other areas of the company and how their own work fits into the bigger picture.
One highly successful approach we observed with a client was the establishment of a monthly call where representatives from many departments were invited to freely share and contribute to cross-departmental learning. Often, ideas shared were germane to achieving business goals such as increased market share.
3. Make results accessible and readable
In addition to communicating terms and approaches, we must also be aware of the possibility of miscommunication with details such as the interpretation of data. One of the key elements of the decision quality is gathering meaningful data. As ‘big data’ is becoming one of the most used enterprise technology terms today, distinctively communicating the information behind the data becomes crucial for making any data-driven decisions. It can be frustrating that extra layers of work from data scientists are still needed in many organizations in order to translate data into actionable information. Tools are designed for those who speak the language of algorithms and statistical analysis. The speed of communication and making data-driven decisions moves at a slower pace. It is often hard for users from various departments to obtain the real-time insights from data directly. Consider data presented in following two ways. The map does a better job at demonstrating changes to the population in each state from 2017 to 2018 than the table listing the exact population of each state.
This is one example of how the visualization of data, however plainly presented, lacks the ability to engage or draw in the reader. By providing visual representation of the data (and there are many ways to do this), the reader will find it much easier to digest and perhaps even have higher retention. This will be helpful for any high-quality decision analysis and fully unleash the power of data.
As we’ve seen, the importance of communication manifests itself in many layers of the conversation from the broad to the detailed. In some extreme cases, even the erosion of working relationships can be avoided. When the communication breakdowns are avoided upfront, there are untold savings to be realized in terms of both time and costs. Kromite has the methodologies to quickly identify and rectify communication breakdowns, develop viable solutions and allow for more successful outcomes.