In IT as well as other areas communication or the conveyance of information is an important factor. As you might have experienced yourself, communication in general is an error-prone thing. Misunderstandings and perceptions occur regularly and have an impact. Wrongly understood information could lead to unnecessary costs for your organization and frustration amongst staff.
Communication that is not efficient is costly itself and leads to further cost since it necessitates additional communication and in worst case even redoing work. For communication to be truly efficient it is essential that all communication channels are used, such as body language, face expression and tone.
Humans have always had different ways of communicating, the advent of information technology has radically increased our options. From text messages with limited words up to video conferencing everything is possible …assuming smoke signs are not relevant anymore 🙂
Each way of communicating brings advantages and also disadvantages and should be used according to purpose. For creating and appointment with friends a short text or call is sufficient. When you discuss technical requirements in details, video conferencing might be the first choice. Everything could be recorded and you can watch it again or use the video for knowledge transfer. Even body language and face expressions are captured to a certain extent.
Amongst all ways and tools of communication, which one is the most efficient when it comes to business communication? In reality, communication is mostly done just like that without taking the time to choose the proper method, tool or environment for it. It could be way more efficient if you consciously think about communication and set up your communication channels accordingly.
Face to face conversation is the most direct and most efficient way to communicate. It is the most efficient way when it comes to gathering full understanding of what the other person has to say. In a face to face conversation you can ask questions directly. This would also be possible via telephone or instant messaging conversation. What you will not get by using any other method of communication is the mood, face expressions and body language. Video conferencing might allow this in part but won’t be as effective as a direct face to face conversation.
As mentioned above, there are tools that support direct communication as well. These tool still have drawbacks that you won’t find in a face to face conversation. Tools depend on an infrastructure, which needs to work properly, tools need to be operated and maintained. Tools might deliver low quality transfer of information that makes it difficult to see or hear the other person properly. Tools don’t transfer non verbal language, such as body language, face expressions or moods in the same way face to face communication does.
Especially in the context of software development, where a lot of clarification and communication happens between involved people, it makes a difference whether conversations are effective and efficient or not. With direct face to face conversation there are less filters and transformation involved than with any other way of communication. With that the risk of misunderstanding goes down enormously.
An impediment is when people are spread over several geographical locations. Co-locating people that work together should always be preferred. Even in the case where several geographical locations are involved in your software development project you should arrange working together at least for the initial phase, so that people get to know each other personally. If possible let people come to work together regularly.
A lack of motivation to talk face to face results in time consuming email typing. Yes, there are still cases like that, where people sitting just a few steps away from each other are communicating via email instead of talking face to face. Remember that there is nothing more efficient than the direct conveyance of information. Support and facilitate face to face conversation and enable people to do so.
From my experience it is a huge advantage to sense body language and moods in a direct face to face conversation. This is such an effective way of conveying information, especially in international environments with different cultures involved.