Business Communications


Ever wondered why most projects are over budget, behind time, and don't deliver the intended benefits ?

I believe that it's a communication thing.

My experience in Europe and Africa is in multi-cultural and usually multi-racial teams.  Members have different cultural and educational backgrounds, and usually not the same birth tongue.

I spent 5 years as the only native English speaker among Xhosa, Zulu, Pondo and Sotho team members.   Communications was certainly a major issue, and that reinforced my belief that training and education in writing reports, memoranda and other communications is essential in such circumstances. 

English is often the Lingua Franca, since it the language most likely to be common to all team members. This in itself can raise communication difficulties.

Even among native English speakers, the same word can have different meanings, both direct and subliminal. I can recall coming to South Africa and being thoroughly confused at first with the different meanings of now. "I'll do it now" my secretary said. I would have stood at her desk for a long time, but fortunately she explained the differences of now, now-now and just now.

In many cases of team members speaking, reading and writing in a second, or even third language, the meaning the author intended is not what the recipient infers. Confusion ensues.

As a result, basic project communications, and in a broader context, business communications, the lifeblood of any organisation, are either dysfunctional, or take significantly more effort to provide benefit.

The Military has spent centuries trying to simplify communications to ensure that commands are simple to understand, and proof against misunderstanding. Despite all their efforts they have not succeeded. History is littered with failed or misguided endeavours. The Charge of the Light Brigade can be traced back to failures in communications and misunderstood commands.

Can business do any better ?

It's unlikely, given it's love of using two words where none would do. It also loves using convoluted phraseology that the writer thinks sounds good, but he or she probably doesn't fully know the meaning of each word and how the relationships between them and the sentence structure implies a meaning.

Even short phrases can be totally fouled up. Consider a headline in the Daily Dispatch from last November - "Dog strangles fleeing fireworks". One meaning is that a dog strangled some fireworks that were making a getaway, another describes a more tragic scenario.

Another time-honoured phrase is "Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana".

If short phrases can be capable of such fundamentally different meanings, how on earth are we to make sense of the prolix gobbledegook that characterises some branches of business and Government.

Do we need some form of business Lingua Franca, so that there can be a common understanding by all readers and writers ?

Should we develop our staff by providing them with coaching and training on how to write and speak concise, comprehensible business English ?

Of course we should.  It benefits the business and the individual.

If you agree call me.

I have standard  programmes of varying length and depth, and will be pleased to develop a programme tailored to your exact requirements