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Strategic Communication - Fundamentals of Organizational Communication

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Strategic Communication

Timothy M. Shannon

Fundamentals of Organizational Communication

Professor Dave Odett



If a person were to drop down into any conference room, board room, hallway, office or cubical in the company represented in this case study the sounds of key tapping, button pushing and faint conversing would all seem normal at first. If that same person spent any length of time in that setting, they would soon realize that behind those faint sounds are people desperately trying to keep pace with what has become the most difficult part of their work...communications. The volume of emails, number of voicemails, endless meetings, hallway conversations, reports, data, white papers, training sessions and presentations has most people stumped about how to manage it all. In this companies' conscious and continuous climb toward efficiency, it seems this area of communications has been overlooked and is full of waste and inefficiency. It is not uncommon to have communication issues in what Shockley-Zabalak (2009 p) describes as a postindustrial information society:

"An environment in which more jobs create, process, or distribute information than directly produce goods. The environment is characterized by mass production of information, which requires the constant learning of new activities and processes

It is odd however that this otherwise forward thinking company has chosen to avoid the topic entirely. Even though the area of communication touches every employee and the inefficiency invades every crevice of the organization, addressing it is not an easy task. It will take a serious effort with the right leadership at the helm.

Overview of the Organization and Case Study

The company is only two decades old but is headed toward two billion dollars in annual revenue. Financially sound and well managed, the organization is poised to continue its steady growth into the next decade. Innovation and entrepreneurial thinking keep the product and services one step ahead of the market while the leaders take on the mission of creating what the next markets will be. Such growth did not come without problems however. The company was forced to put in internal processes that at times were not well thought out. While attempting to respond nimbly to changing customer demands the organization is now feeling the pains of its remarkable growth. Teams of process consultants are now called in to examine areas of waste and inefficiency and recommend new processes that will withstand any future spurts of growth. One such team was commissioned to study the systems used to manage the business. Documentation, communication, training, corrective action and improvement systems were all in scope. This case study focuses on one team in particular that is charged with making recommendations to create a new system of communication across one area of the business. Because the case study is in real time the reader will be exposed to some past challenges and their solutions as well as current ones. The case study also describes what future changes will take place to keep the target area communicating in a well designed, chaos resistant system.

Identify and Describe the Situation or Problem

In this case study the project manager is attempting to lead a virtual team through a defined improvement process. The case study spans two weeks of project meetings and various conversations between the meetings. The characters are all members of the team from different roles and levels in the company. Members are across the US and Canada spanning 3 time zones. The project leader is attempting to help the team understand the application of new concepts to the process they are trying to improve and there are also new procedures that will be implemented as a result. The process is a new way of selling their product. It involves disciplined actions on the part of the field sales representatives and their manager as well as some new administrative tasks. The field sales representatives are being asked to track leads in a computer system that will help them manage their territories better and smooth out the erratic order flow.

Case Study - Week One

The project leader has just hosted the call in which the members are expected to be in a place where they can hear and see the virtual meeting on their laptops. "OK who do we have on the call?" asked Tim, the project manager. "We have Delores (the sales manager), Tyler, Travis and Brian (the field sales representatives), Andrew (the Marketing Manager), Tonia (the Training Manager) and Todd (the internal Process Manager)" expresses Delores. "OK, I would like to begin by reviewing the first concept we discussed in our last meeting...who remembers what that was?" asked Tim. The faint sound of key tapping could be heard as the group sat in uncomfortable silence. After a long pause Delores could be heard discussing another issue with a co-worker (She thought was on mute) about an email that had come in that morning. Delores jumped back to our call and exclaimed "well I know we want to increase sales to 400 units!" "That's true" assured Tim "but that wasn't the concept we discussed last week...anyone else?" Another long pause was followed by a confession by Travis: "I wasn't on the call last week. I went on vacation and came back to over five hundred emails. There was no way I could do anything until those were cleared up." "Travis did you see the email from Dr. Smith?" asked Tonia. "Yeah" said Travis, "he was really upset. I'll go see him later this week." "We discussed the concept of smooth order flow last week" Tim broke in. "Remember the pattern of one order sold per day per rep and how it would smooth out our end of month jam in orders?" "Did you all see the follow up email from last week's meeting with the definition of smooth order flow?" asked Tim. Another long pause was followed by more key tapping. "I think I saw it" Andrew said "but I couldn't get to it." The meeting continued until the full hour was up and Tim gladly ended the call.

Case Study - Week Two

"Well it is good to see some of you in person for once instead of on the phone line"



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