Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Communicating more effectively as a job and career skill set 17: finding best practices in the face of ongoing change

This is my seventeenth installment to a series on what is one of the most important, and also one of the most commonly problematical of all workplace skills: communicating with others, and as an effective two (or more) way process (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 342 and following for Parts 1-16.)

My goal for this posting is to bring into specific focus, a theme of discussion that has at least been implicit throughout this entire series up to here: change. The range and diversity, and the volume of information that we need to communicate and that we receive in communications have all expanded out quantitatively to a sufficient degree since the late 20th century to qualify as representing a distinctly qualitative change too. The range and diversity of people who we are likely to be directly and even frequently communicating with in business has expanded for many of us too, and across time zone and native language and other traditional barriers. And the range of communications channels has shifted and expanded, with some less and even much less used than they were traditionally, and others expanding to fill those void, and more. Proportionally much less of our business correspondence and communications in general are sent as hard copy through postal systems, for example. And even some of our more established electronic communications channels, and email comes immediately to mind here, have been significantly cut into with the proliferation of instant messaging and its short message sharing cousins.

• Effective communications, and certainly as of this writing and through any foreseeable future means navigating this change. And that means both conveying our own communications through channels that make sense and are comfortable to us, and through channels that can be effective for the messages that we would share,
• And in using communications means that the people who we need to communicate with can and will use and be comfortable with too.
• And we need to be sensitive to the communications styles and preferences of others who might have to communicate with us too, and with a flexibility in meeting them at least half way in finding mutually acceptable communications solutions.

So this posting is about adaptation curves and the rate of acceptance of and use of new communications channels for business purposes. Some business professionals, and some businesses with their overall Information Technology department-led communications systems practices and policies are early adaptors and some are late adaptors. We need to know where the people who we would communicate with are for this.

This is just as much a posting about differences in the availability of new communications channels and options per se, where “new” can be a relative term and regionally or nationally defined. I cite in this context, my recent series: Developing Critical Infrastructure from a Human and a Societal Perspective as a working example, where communications and information exchange would include participants from areas such as East Africa where internet access and availability of online communications channels are largely limited to their larger urban centers – and where even there, the range of resources available can be limited and certainly in comparison to what has come to be taken for granted in more technologically developed countries (see United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (UN-GAID), postings 16 and following for Parts 1-6 of that series.) But to note the nuances of availability that have to be addressed there, cell phone and smart phone availability can become widespread and even routine, while cabled systems and computer access per se remain limited and localized – so short message format text communications can be readily adapted and accepted while even older-format email and other document attachments might not (yet) be effectively possible. We need to know and understand the technology availability landscape we would communicate with.

Information security and due diligence concerns enter in here too of course, and in this regard I repeat a detail that I have already made in this series about how some Information Technology departments routinely and automatically delete externally sourced email attachments due to experience with and concern regarding malware and cyber-attack risk. The more complex and varied the range of communications channels and ways of using them, the more complex and varied the possible range of decisions as to what of this diversity to support and allow, and what of it to limit or even block. This can mean proactively communicating information about pertinent IT policy and about resource availability at your business and about communications channel preferences there, to people who are likely to have to communicate with you. Supply chain partners come immediately to mind for that, where this can now mean fellow professionals located essentially anywhere on this planet. This is particularly important if your system disallows or explicitly limits or controls use of a channel or resource that others routinely use and expect. This can also mean keeping an eye out for communications breakdowns and finding out if the people who you would communicate with use, for example, an instant messaging tool that you routinely use, or at least one that is compatible with it.

• The important point, and I add overall take-home lesson from this series installment, and in effect of this series as a whole, is that effective business communicators present themselves as being answers to possible communications problems, rather than sources of them. And this starts with shaping and refining the basic message that would be conveyed and being receptive to the messages of others. And this means making effective, flexible use of the communications channels available for conveying and receiving them, where availability and preferences change with time and can be very different from place to place and from business to business.

I am going to conclude this series with this, at least for now, though I will return to further discuss issues that I have touched upon here in future postings. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3 and at the first directory page and second, continuation page to this Guide. You can also find this and related material at Social Networking and Business and its continuation page. And I also include this series in my directory: United Nations Global Alliance for ICT and Development (UN-GAID).

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