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Managing Communications in order to meet Organizational Objectives

The objective of this work is to analyze the processes by which information is managed for meeting organizational objectives. This work will additionally identify one key objective required to manage day-to-day or a medium term operation and analyze it in the context of the following tasks: (1) information and knowledge needs; (2) construct of communications; and (3) appropriate system.

Introduction

The organization, in order to succeed, must have the ability to process data and information effectively. This is especially true in the rapidly changing globalized business environment. Functions used by organizations in day-to-day operations include such as “planning, controlling, organizing, and decision-making.” (Walshman, 2009) Information is “unquestionably a critical resource in the operation of all organizations.” (Walshman, 2009) The key objective identified for the purpose of this study is to optimize communication processes and information distribution within the organization and for the express purpose of eliminating redundant communicative processes, streamlining efficiency and realizing a higher level of profit for the organization.

Examination of Information and Knowledge Needs

Information and knowledge needs in the organization are that which determine the information system types and sources of data for enabling the organization’s objective to be realized. The work of Choo (2002) states that organizations “are societies of minds. Actions and decisions are not the simple outcome of any single, orderly activity: They emerge from an ecology of information processes. “ (Choo, 2002) Choo notes that Dill (1962) wrote that the organization should “treat the environment as information which becomes available to the organization or to which the organization, via search activity may get access.” (2002) Choo states that studies conducted have examined how it is that organizations “adapt to external environments by varying their internal structures.” (2002) Signals and messages are created constantly by “changes, events, and trends in the environment.” (Choo, 2002) Choo writes that the organization “can manage increasing dependence by setting up coordination links and connections among the interdependent organizations in its environment.” (2002)

Barriers to Organizational Communication

The work of Bakan, et al (n.d.) entitled “Organizational Communications: The Role of Information Technology (IT)” report the following barriers to communication within the organization:

Physical Distractions: Any type of physical distraction can interfere with the interpersonal communication effectiveness;

Semantic Problems: These barriers occur in the form of encoding and decoding errors and mixed messages.

Cultural Differences : language differences are the largest difficulties in cross-cultural communication;

Absence of Feedback: Written memos or voice recording results in no immediate feedback.

Status Effects: Hierarchical barriers.

Low Motivation and Interest: Many managers never get through since the intended receiver is not motivated to hear the message or is not interested in the message.

Inappropriate Language: The language used to frame a message must be suited to the intended receivers.

Defensive Communication: Defensive communication is the tendency to receive messages in a way that protects self-esteem.

Filtering: Filtering is coloring and altering information to make it more acceptable to the receiver.

Insufficient Non-verbal Communication: If verbal communication is not supplemented by non-verbal communication, messages may not convincing.

Information Overload: Information overload occurs when an individual receives so much information that he or she becomes overwhelmed.

Poor Communication Skills: A message may fail to register because the sender lacks effective communication skills.

Electronic Communication Problems: Advanced technology in the office has created several new communication barriers.

Differing Perceptions: People who have different backgrounds of knowledge and experience often perceive the same phenomenon from different perspectives.

Noise: Noise is any factor that disturbs, confuses, or otherwise interferes with communication.

Emotional Reactions: Emotional reactions – anger, love, defensiveness, hate, jealously, fear, embarrassment – affect how an individual understands others’ messages and how he/she affects others with his/her own messages.

Distrust: A receiver’s trust or distrust of a message is, to a large extent, a function of the credibility of the sender in the mind of the receiver.

Faulty organization: Such as lack of definition of responsibilities, too long chains of command and too wide spans of control.

Differences Between Individuals: Differences in age, emotional states, listening ability, interpretation, status.

Other Barriers: Inconsistent verbal and non-verbal communication, irrelevant data, transmission problems, use of technical jargon, and personalities of managers. (Bakan, et al, n.d.)

Strategies that can be used to overcome these barriers include the strategies as follows:

Overcome differences in language.

Overcome noise.

Overcome emotional reactions.

Overcome inconsistent verbal and non-verbal communication.

Overcome distrust.

Understand the receiver.

Communicate assertively.

Use two-way communication.

Unite with a common vocabulary.

Elicit verbal and non-verbal feedback.

Enhance listening skills.

Be sensitive to cultural differences.

Be sensitive to gender differences.

Signal attentiveness and responsiveness to the signals of the other.

Share speaking and listening.

Signal attitudes and intentions towards one another.

Use gestures, which are consistent with the words.

Use gestures only to illustrate speech.

Provide continuous feedback on how the message is being received. (Bakan, et al, n.d)

Four General Strategies for Data Structure

The work of Pfeffer and Salancik (1978) are stated to have identified four general strategies as follows: (1) the organization can use secrecy or restriction of information to avoid influence attempts; (2) the organization can alter the patterns of interdependence through growth, merger and diversification – in other words, it can absorb the parts of the environment on which it depends; (3) the organization can establish collective structures of interorganizational behavior through use of interlocking directorates, joint ventures, industry associations and normative restraints – forming a ‘negotiated environment’; and (4) it can create the organizational environment through law, political action, and altering the definitions of social legitimacy through forming a ‘created environment’.” (Choo, 2002) The environment is stated by Choo to be viewed “as an ecological milieu that differentially selects certain types of organizations for survival on the basis of the fit between organizational forms and environmental characteristics.” (Choo, 2002) Change in the organization occurs in three phases: (1) variation; (2) selection; and (3) retention. (Choo,2002) Organizations are reported to “…receive information about the environment that is ambiguous.” (Choo, 2002) The work of Weick and Daft state the following conclusions: “Organizations must make interpretations. Managers literally must wade into the swarm of events that constitute and surround the organization and actively try to impose some order on them…Interpretation is the process of translating these events, of developing models for understanding, or bringing out meaning, and of assembling conceptual schemes. (Weick and Daft, 1983 in Choo, 2002)

That which is under interpretation is “the organization’s external environment, and how the organization goes about its interpretation depends on how analyzable it perceives the environment to be and how actively it intrudes into the environment to understand it.” (Choo, 2002) Choo writes that the organizational structure is realized through the creation of information about information or “how data are organized, related and used.” (2002) Choo states that some examples of filtering and structuring data are “classification categories, indexes, tables of contents, and data models….structuring holds the most potential for the strategic exploitation of information.” (Choo, 2002)

As the organization identifies information needs, it is important that the organization recognize “the volatility of the environment.” (Choo, 2002) Information needs are stated to be defined by “subject-matter requirements as well as situation-determined contingencies…” (Choo, 2002) Information organization and storage has as its objective the creation of an organizational memory that is the active repository of much of the organization’s knowledge and expertise.” (Choo, 2002) The data volume produced and collected should be in a structured method that is reflective of the organization's “interests and information –use modes.” (Choo, 2002) Choo states that the work of MacMullin and Taylor (1984) state that there are eleven problem dimensions that serve to defined the “information need and use environment and form the user criteria by which the relevance of information to a problem will be judged” and states the following eleven problem dimensions listed in Figure 1 with the accompany information needs examples.

Figure 1

Eleven Problem Dimensions and Information Needs

Design Options, alternatives, ranges

Discovery Small detailed sets of data

Well-structured Hard, quantitative data

Ill-structured Probabilistic data on how to proceed

Simple Path to goal state

Complex Ways to reduce problem to simpler tasks

Specific goals Goal operationalization and measurement

Amorphous goals Preferences and directions

Initial state understood Clarify unclear aspects of initial state.

Initial state not understood Soft, qualitative data to define initial state

Assumptions agreed upon Information to help define problems

Assumptions not agreed upon Views of the world, definition of terms

Assumptions explicit Range of options, frames to analyze problems

Assumptions not explicit Information to make assumptions explicit

Familiar pattern Procedural and historical information

New Pattern Substantive and future-oriented information

Magnitude of risk not great Cost-effective search

Magnitude of risk great best available information: accurate, complete

Susceptible for empirical analysis Objective, aggregated data

Not susceptible to empirical Experts’ opinions, forecast, scenarios

analysis

Internal imposition Clarification of internal goals, objectives

External imposition Information about external environment

Source: Choo (2002)

For the purpose of the present study, the eleven previously stated criteria will guide the communication and information distribution in the organization. This checklist will be utilized in the process of communication being related throughout the organization at issue in this study. As well a strategic audit will be utilized in understanding the needs that presently exist in terms of the information needed to judge the strengths and weaknesses in acquisition and use system.”

Strategic Audit

Choo states that the information should conduct a strategic information audit, which is a “systematic method of diagnosing the strengths and weaknesses of an existing information acquisition and use system.” (2002) The audit conducts a survey of “current information uses and needs by functional area and assesses the effectiveness of current information sources and the effectiveness of information distribution.” (Choo, 2002) Users are asked to explain information needs including “both internal information needs (internally generated reports and documents) and external information needs (published materials such as newspapers, journals and periodicals).” (Choo, 2002) The survey results serve to reveal gaps or inconsistencies in information as well as duplication of effort. Choo states that automated indexing systems development has resulted in an increase in the feasibility of the adoption of a user-centered approach to indexing which can be accomplished at two levels: (1) reflecting the topic and other predetermined feature; (2) tailored to situational requirements such as the level of treatment, whether general or specific.“ (Choo, 2002) Choo notes that the following values added in information products and services:

(1) ease of use;

(2) noise reduction;

(3) quality;

(4) adaptability;

(5) savings in time; and

(6) savings in costs. (2002)

Construction of Communications and Information Distribution

Information distribution is the “process by which the organization disseminates and shares information from different sources.” (Choo, 2002) Information distribution and sharing is stated to be “a necessary precondition of perception and interpretation” and distribution is stated in the work of Choo to be about “the dissemination or routing of information…to the right person, in the right time, place and format.” (2002) The mode of information dissemination should be decided by the “user’s criteria of ease of use and physical accessibility.” (Choo, 2002) In other words, the individual who receives electronic mail, facsimiles and documents through a universal mailbox on a personal computer and who prefers to receive information electronically through the same interface should receive the information via those modes of communication. Other modes of information dissemination, distribution and communication include such as:

Usenet groups on the Internet;

Newsgroups;

Electronic Bulletin Boards; and

Discussion threads. (Choo, 2002)

Information is used both quantitatively and qualitatively. For example, during the identification phase, information is utilized to assist in framing the problem situation and explaining causal relationships” (Choo, 2002) The primary purpose is the provision of enough comprehension of an issue that the decision process can start. During the development phase, alternatives and solutions have to be discovered or generated with options described in detail. Information staff is inclusive of content specialists (librarians and market researchers), designers and facilitators of information bases, information liaisons as well as information technology professionals.” (Choo, 2002)

Information Orientation (IO) is used to measure the capacity of the organization to manage and use information and the three information capacities are as follows:

Information technology practices: the capacity to effectively manage information technology (IT) applications and infrastructure to support operations, business processes, innovation, and managerial decision making;

Information management practices: the capacity to manage information effectively over the life cycle of information use, including sensing, collecting, organizing, processing, and maintaining information. This involves scanning for information about markets, customers, competitors, and suppliers; organizing, linking and analyzing information and ensuring that people use the best information available;

Information Behaviors and Values: the capacity to instill and promote behaviors and values in the people for effective use of information. Values are stated to include: Integrity, formality, control, sharing, transparency, and proactiveness. (Choo, 2002)

Each of these are described as follows:

Integrity – no manipulation of information for personal gain including passing on inaccurate information, using information for justification of decisions after the fact.

Formality – trust in formal sources;

Control – disclosure on business performance to all employees;

Sharing – exchange of information between individuals in teams, across functional and organizational boundaries;

Transparency – members trust each other enough to talk about failures and errors; and

Proactiveness – members actively seek out and respond to changes in their competitive environment. (Choo, 2002)

The work of Baker (n.d.) reports that the field of organizational communication “is highly diverse and fragmented…and spans communication at the micro, meso, and macro levels: formal and informal communications; and internal organizational communication practices, (newsletters, presentations, strategic communications, work direction, performance reviews, meetings) as well as externally directed communications (public, media, inter-organizational). Innovation, organizational learning, knowledge management, conflict management, diversity, and communication technologies are also addressed.” (Baker, n.d.) Baker notes that in additional organizational communication has been “subject to dramatic change…perhaps more than any other aspect of organizational theory and practice.” (n.d.) This is due to traditional and historical communication mode within the organization being informal in nature however, as the organization has increased in size “formal top-down communication became the main concern of organizational managers.” (Baker, n.d.) Organizational communication has become not only more complex and varied but as well, it has become “more important to overall organizational functioning and success.” (Baker, n.d.) Baker relates that not only is the pace of work much faster than in the traditional organization but as well workers are more distributed than previously as well as are work processes resulting in communication technologies and networks becoming increasingly critical to the structure and strategy of the organization. (Baker, n.d) According to Baker, there are three theoretical perspectives that serve as guides in the study of communication: (1) the technical; (2) the contextual; and (3) the negotiated perspectives. (Baker, n.d) The following figure illustrates information theory in which communication is a mechanistic system.

Figure 2

Information Theory; Communication as a Mechanistic System

The technical sender-receiver model of communication is shown in the following illustration labeled Figure 3.

Figure 3

Technical Sender-Receiver Model of Communication

Appropriate System for Organizational Communication and Information Distribution

This work has sought to identify a process by which information within the organization can be managed and communicated to all organizational members. Toward this end, this work has stated the need to optimize the communication processes in the organization and specifically recommended in this work is that a system be acquired that has the capacity to allow HR to better track the organizational employees in their receipt of electronic website mail service communication. Access to information systems and knowledge by organizational employees must be assured and therefore, electronic website mail service communication will be followed up with postings to discussion boards. With proper education and training, organizational employees could and should be given access to greater levels or organizational communication and organizational knowledge which will serve to optimize communication within the organization and ultimately serve to streamline operations and through higher efficiency among employees serve to make the organization more profitable. Toward this end, this work has examined specific information system technologies for the organization and has found that information technology is critical and integral to today’s organizations and specifically in communicating information and disseminating knowledge on an organization-wide basis.

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