Staff Skills

Effective Communication

By Kyle Myers January 15, 2021


Army understands the importance and safety implications of effective communication. This is evident through the oral and written communication performance metric assessed in performance appraisal reporting. Even with this level of understanding, maintaining effective communication between all leaders is still difficult to achieve as Army’s high work tempo, coupled with a continually changing complex environment, results in leaders finding it difficult to effectively communicate changes in a timely manner throughout Army.

Effective communication occurs when the intended message of the sender and the interpreted meaning of the receiver are one and the same (Schermerhorn, Davidson, Poole, Woods, Simon & McBarron, 2014). In many cases, leaders planning in isolation with no effective communication with other elements can result in major work coordination break downs as the sender's message was not issued to, or understood by the receiver at an appropriate time. This may lead to a situation where people make unspoken assumptions about a job, resulting in major work inefficiencies due to a lack of understanding and poor teamwork. This situation is typically highlighted by Army unit operations cells failing to pass on all required information regarding upcoming exercise requirements to the unit's supporting elements in a timely manner, thereby resulting in the supporting elements lack of understanding in how to effectively support the upcoming exercise. Supporting elements failing to communicate back with operations cell can also lead to an exacerbation of the situation, and prevents any chance of early rectifications of these planning and coordination problems.

Successful coordination in constructing and implementing a change in an organisation is a complicated task. Gergen states that change is not pre-given, but is socially constructed by people through their everyday conversations (Gergen, 2008). It takes numerous conversations in the form of narratives and stories, between the sender and receiver to determine the context for change. These talks provide a voice for the receiver to talk to the sender in how this change is going to affect them and the organisation as they relate to the change being discussed. By allowing a receiver to voice their own reflections on this change, it reduces their resistance to this change, provides them with a better preparedness for change, and gives them the opportunity to describe what resistances there may be from others because of this change.

This lack of conversation is highlighted by today’s use of emails. Whilst emails may provide an efficient means of communication, it reduces the communication effectiveness by limiting the opportunity for the sender and receiver to actively discuss and listen to each other’s narratives to provide a clearer insight into the nature of the message to the recipient. The resultant time spent typing back and forth between parties is often more inefficient than having the conversation in the first instance.  

The effectiveness of this communication method was reinforced to me recently whilst deployed on Operation RESOLUTE. At the end of the deployment during the HOTO period, I came to realise that a significant portion of my HOTO revolved around describing communication requirements and methods. It highlighted the importance of effective, direct communication with all elements of the deployment to sustain efficient coordination and maintain interpersonal relations.

Successfully constructing and implementing a change in an organisation is a complicated task requiring effective communication. Whilst leaders must maintain effective communication, they must focus on prioritising effective communication by having conversations between stakeholders during any planning phase to ensure that all members have the same understanding of the situation, and are given multiple opportunities to discuss the required changes in the most efficient manner.

 

References

Schermerhor, J., Davidson, P., Poole, D., Woods, P., Simon, A. & McBarron, E. (2014). Management.5th Asia-Pacific Edition. Milton: John Wiley & Sons.

Gergen, K. (2008). An Invitation to Social Construction, London: Sage.


Portrait

Biography

Kyle Myers

Warrant Officer Class Two

Kyle Myers is a Warrant Officer Class Two in Royal Corps of Australian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RAEME)

 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.



Comments

Hi Kyle, Well done in tackling what is probably one of the most important challenges in the ADF. If there is confusion and no opportunity to clarify, it's likely that the objective won't be achieved. Seems to me that the issue of consultation is critical. I went for a job interview post the Army and one of the questions was: "Well you've been in the Army, so you wouldn't know anything about industrial democracy (ID) ... would you? I surprised the panel by informing them that the Army is one of the most ID experienced of all organisations: before planning a task, the participants are canvassed for their ideas; before commencing, the plan is fully explained to all involved; on completion, feedback is sought from participants. I explained that effective two way communication is seen as fundamental to success. (I got the job.) PS. I had to Google 'HOTO'.

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