Posted: March 18th, 2023
communication chapter 3 Maximum Performance, describe develop enhance communication abilities skills future (15 marks). Part 2: EITHER: imagine brought a consultant offer advice communication processes business/organisation work ( worked recently).
The modern day business society is extremely dynamic and competitive. In the context of increasing forces of globalization, economic agents transcend boundaries and strengthen their competitive positions. This virtually means that the companies are presented with two different situations. For once, within the global community, they become able to access wider consumer markets and enhance their sales levels. On the other hand however, within the domestic community, they encounter increased competition as more foreign players enter the local market.
The business community as such becomes more and more competitive. But the complexities of the economic climate do not end with globalization, as these are enhanced by other elements as well. For instance, the demands of the customers exponentially increase when they are presented with multiple options. Then, the technological advancements allow the economic agents to operate in a more efficient manner, but they also create additional competition and require supplementary financial investments. To add to all these, economic agents face pressures from the changing political climate, the overall state of the economy or the changing behaviors of their staff members.
Most of these changes are derived by the external environment, with the companies having little power over them. Still, what the economic agents do is to research them and strive to adapt to them as best as they know how. In this multifaceted and intricate process of adaptation to the emergent challenges of the external and internal environments, communication plays an essential role.
Communication is important to motivating the employees, to engaging them in continuous change and development process. In other words, communication represents an essential component in the process of getting the employees to perform for the overall scope of the firm. But the role of communication within the context of economic agents expands beyond just the relationship with the staff members.
Communication is an indispensable tool in the relationship the company develops with all of its stakeholders — such as customers, business partners, the general public, governmental and non-governmental agencies and so on. At the specific level of the customers, good communications can support the generation of loyal customers and repeat business, as they can also support the attraction of new customers.
Within this setting, a question is now being posed relative to the steps that should be taken by a small size economic agent at the level of its communication efforts, as part of its overall endeavor to promote its business interests. This question would be addressed throughout the following pages in the context of Andalina Software, a small size developer of software applications for tablet computers.
The first section provides details on the specifics of the company, and is then followed by the current features of the communication processes at Andalina Software. It is important to identify any potential shortages and address them throughout the proposed steps. Additionally, emphasis would be placed on the features to be addressed in terms of communication processes at the levels of various stakeholder categories within both internal and external environments. The final scope is that of improving internal and external communication so that it can be best used to maintain repeat business from current customers, and also to attract new clients.
Still, before being able to conduct such an analysis, it is necessary to first identify the individuals’ most severe communication issues, and identify how to improve them in the future. Only by possessing this knowledge, would one be able to assess the communication stance within an organizational setting.
2. Personal improvement plan
In order to improve the communication skills in the future, the following steps would be implemented:
The individual would cultivate their ability to listen better
The individual should seek environments that promote active listening
Inquiring those around to understand their own standpoints, as well as their levels of satisfaction or other complaints they might have with the individual, a situation and so on Changing the individual’s approach to communication.
The ability to listen is essential within both personal and professional climate, and it is even more so important for anyone to possess it, especially those in leading positions. Unless they are able to listen to what they are being told, individuals, inducing managers, might make critical mistakes that would cost the business.
“At work, there are dozens of situations in which listening is critical, yet we typically think of talking when we think of relating to people and communication. When we are coaching, counseling, giving and/or receiving instructions or feedback, it is critical that we hear, listen and understand the speaker” (Forster, 2011).
Some people have an innate ability to listen, but this is a trait that can be developed in time as well. Some pin pointed steps to developing listening skills include the need to identify the main idea of what the interlocutor is saying. Then, it is useful to try and predict what they would say next and to draw interferences. In the end, it is useful to summarize what the interlocutor has said and retain the message they sent (National Capital Language Resource Center, 2004). All these steps would be further on implemented throughout communication processes so that my communication skills improve.
b) Active listening
In order to stimulate active listening, the first requirement is that for the parties engaged in the communication process to be interested in the topic discussed. In other words, I will strive to raise my own interest in a topic discussed. Also, additional success chances are created when the interlocutors enjoy discussing the respective subject and hearing what the other has to say about it.
Other commitments to promoting active listening include the following:
a) Paying attention to what the other is saying
b) Proving that one is listening through the usage of body language, such as occasional smiles, nods or the adjustment of posture
c) Providing feedback
d) Eliminating any judgment and preconceptions when discussing with others
e) Providing answers to the topics discussed and the questions posed in an honest and candid manner (Mind Tools).
c) Inquiring on other’s opinions
Surveys are highly useful means of gathering the data considered of interest for a specific person or topic. They are straightforward and provide clear answers. Still, within the real life context, they are less useful than compared to the research community. Still, to gather information and knowledge on what the others think’ feel / believe etc., I would be engaging in communications that center on them. I as such commit to listening better and to asking the interlocutors to share their own inputs on the subjects discussed.
d) Changing attitude towards communication
The positive attitude towards communication represents the most important component of a successful communication effort. In order to attain this, two commitments are forwarded at this stage.
First, within this era of the internet, I strive to only use emails when transmitting factual data, and commit to communicate face-to-face whenever possible. This virtually means that I would engage in communications within groups, but also with individuals.
Secondly, it is necessary for the individual to look at communications through the lenses of the interlocutors (Business Town, 2003). In other words, it is necessary for me to comprehend the technical arguments forwarded by the interlocutors and to respect their specialized opinion. I need to understand the overall context of the interlocutors, as well as the overall context of the situation discussed.
3. Andalina Software Ltd.
Andalina Software Limited was established in 2009 and its core activity is that of developing software applications to be used on tablet computers. The market for tablet computers is expanding rapidly and Andalina hopes to launch its own application that would be used by millions of consumers worldwide.
The application is a text reader to be used by students across universities of the globe. Its features include ability to read and reveal texts in a multitude of formats, book marking capabilities and highlighting features.
The company currently employs fifteen staff members, each developing specific tasks, as follows:
One manager in charge of supervising the operations in the office, placing most emphasis on technical activities. This manager is also the owner of the firm and the owner of the application being developed.
One office manager, mainly in charge with administrative issues, such as holidays, office supplies and so on Eight software engineers, divided into two groups: four software developers creating the application to be suitable for the Apple tablet; four software developers creating the application so that it is compatible with the Barnes and Nobles Nook.
Two testers, one testing the application on the Apple tablet and the other testing it on the Nook
Three ingestion staffs, in charge of arranging the books that would be sold with the application.
The emphasis at Andalina Software falls on efficiency — including operational and cost efficiency. Since it is a small size entity, it strives to decrease its costs to a minimum possible and to channel all its resources towards attaining its primary objective — the completion of the application. In this setting, it has externalized all operations which are not directly linked to the application.
Specifically, accounting, marketing and cleaning services are all offered by tertiary companies, based on collaboration contracts which are honored by hourly payments. Andalina’s manager has decided that the firm does not need to pay a full time accountant, a full time marketing specialist nor a full time cleaning employee, so it contracted the services of tertiary parties to complete these operations.
Cost savings are also made at the level of the employees, whose wages are slightly higher than those in the industry, but which are not coupled with additional benefits, such as medical coverage or deduction of several expenses. The employees are as such motivated by the higher salary, as well as by the possibility to learn and make a difference in creating a great application. Additionally, they are also motivated by the possibility of the firm growing in the future and them advancing as the firm grows. Specifically, the employees hope to be promoted into middle management functions once new staffs are hired.
3. Communications at Andalina software
The overall working climate at Andalina is rather tense. The small company strives to maximize its capitalization on the knowledge and efforts of its staffs, and this often leads to the employees being overworked and revealing low levels of morale. Specifically, the owner and manager of the firm is a workaholic, with the same expectations from the staff members.
On a personal note, the manager is a young male, in his early thirties. He has no children and no spouse; for what the employees know, he does not have a stable relationship. He is totally invested in the firm and the application and expects his staff members to reveal the same levels of commitment. Still, the employees are mostly married; some of them are even young parents. They do not have the same time available as the manager, nor do they have the same factors motivating and driving them.
The discrepancy between manager expectations and employee capabilities often generates tensions and dissatisfactions among the staff members. The staffs do nevertheless hope that once the application is developed and the first version is available, that the pace of working would slow down. Specifically, they hope that once only application maintenance is necessary, that the working climate would be a bit more relaxed.
The communications at Andalina Software are generally similar to the overall working atmosphere. The manager is the one conducting most communications. He organizes meetings and he says what he needs to say to the employees. He is the one making the decisions and then communicates them to the staff members. The employees listen to what the manager has to say and strive to implement his demands as best as they can. In most circumstances however, the decisions made by the manager are not seen as applicable by the employees, but their arguments are seldom understood by the manager.
Recently for instance, during the morning meeting held daily to distribute tasks and monitor progress, the manager asked one employee to be in charge of creating the bookmarks for the application. The employee gave an estimation of three days to completing the project, but the manager said that it was too much. Without additional discussions, he only allocated one day to the respective task.
As expected, the employee remained in the office after hours to try and complete the tasks assigned to him in as little time as possible, but it just could not be done. During the following day, he was assigned a new task and was now faced with the need to work even harder.
All in all, communications are problematic at Andalina Software as they are one sided. The manager makes decisions which are often perceived as unrealistic by the employees, and the employees are expected to implement them without hesitation or without argument. And aside from the frustration of the employees, the tasks and decisions made by the manager are often not sustainable from the technical standpoint.
Still since the employees are pressured to complete the tasks within a small amount of time, they do that, but often compromise on the quality of the task. The end result is that of glitches and bugs in the application, which more often seems to be devolving, rather than evolving.
The reader created by Andalina Software is not yet available within the market, meaning as such that it does not have any real customers. Still, the company collaborates with Apple Inc. And Barnes and Noble, who have seen some early versions of the application and are not satisfied with its features and functionality. In other words, the application lacks technical depth, which is sacrificed in an effort to create the application as soon as possible and benefit from the rise of table usage.
The manager of Andalina Software interpreted the requests of Apple and Barnes and Nobles for increased quality as demands for additional functionalities. In other words, he believed that if the application would be added more features, then it would be more appealing to the tablet manufacturers to add on their markets.
The result of this interpretation was that the manager made new decision to add supplementary functionalities. Still, the employees had not completed the tasks they were already working on. The manager nonetheless demanded for new functionalities to be created and added, within the shortest possible time. This lead to the creation of a vicious circle in which the employees are overworked and dissatisfied and the negative impacts upon the firm are starting to show.
The problem is then the discrepancy between time of completion and the quality of task completion. The manager wants the application to be quickly available; the tablet manufacturers want it to be of high quality and the staffs are not presented with the adequate conditions to implementing the technical skills the y possess to creating a high quality product. Communications between the parties are as such weak and the impacts of this situation are negative upon all parties involved — the employees, the manager, the application, the customers (Apple Inc. And Barnes and Nobles) as well as the overall company.
3. Steps to improving communication
As it has been revealed throughout the previous section, there are two primary types of communication with Andalina Software:
Communications between the manager and the employees — mainly the developers, and Communications between the manager and the representatives of Apple Inc. And Barnes and Nobles.
The employees do not interact with the customers, only with the manager. So far, the two sets of communication have retrieved two important conclusions. On the one hand, the manager wants the application to be completed quickly, but the developers do not find this technologically feasible, yet their arguments are not listened to. On the other hand, the customers are displeased with the quality of the application and request improvements for the application to be made available for their tablets and therefore reach the final users.
Neither communication effort manages to support the company in reaching its final objective, meaning as such that the company has to undergo several steps to improve its communication efforts. These steeps to improvement are revealed below.
As a note, it has to be pointed out that the manager at Andalina Software should undergo individual processes by which to improve his communication style, and then implement these steps within the organizational climate.
It is as such necessary for the manager to become a better listener and to become engaged in active listening. Active listening is a very intricate endeavor, and it is necessary for the organizational parties to be dedicated to the efforts.
“Active listening is very hard work. This is because someone who is speaking can deliver about 100-125 words a minute, but a listener (or reader) can process at least 500 words a minute. This leads to ‘idle time’, and an opportunity to start pre-formulating responses or, worse still, planning when we are going to interrupt or contradict the person” (Forster, 2011).
Then, it is necessary for him to inquire on the opinions of others. Within the organizational climate, this would often be materialized through interviews and surveys to collect data on the levels of satisfaction and content on the job. Then, the approach to communication has to improve and the manager has to understand the standpoint of the employees. Finally, the manager has to engage followers.
At Andalina Software, the employees feel overworked and under rewarded, and this is starting to negatively impact their professional results. Still, since the manager is committed to his vision of delivering the application as soon as possible, he should explain his motives in communication processes. In other words, he should explain to the employees why his approach is beneficial, but also forward the means in which the attainment of his goal would benefit the employees. At this stage, emphasis should be placed on elements such as performance-based bonuses upon release of the first official version of the application or promises of promotional opportunities as the firm further develops and grows.
Aside from these however, some additional changes should be made at the internal level of the company. Specifically, changes in communication are not sufficient to engage followers, but these should be supplemented with changes in the overall relationship between management and staff members. A first thing to do in this setting is represented by the offering of several incentives that motivate the employees to work harder and support the manager in attaining the pre-established objectives.
Financial incentives are difficult to be offered as the small size company possesses limited financial resources. Nonetheless, it should present its staff members with several non-financial incentives. Some notable examples in this sense include flexible working schedules, the possibility to get free days upon working extra hours or the organization of social events outside the firm. By implementing this latter strategy, the team would become better united and they would also come to see the manager in a social context, and interact with him outside the professional climate.
All in all, the steps hereby proposed have a single and most important scope — that of transforming communications at Andalina Software from one sided efforts into two sided communications. Two sided communications are essential for the success of the company and they play the role of combining valuable inputs for both management and employees in a means in which the organizational goals are best attained.
“Many organizations still spend an inordinate amount of time pushing vision and mission statements, employee newsletters and directives from the top-down, but still fail to listen actively to their own employees. At the same time, confronted by accelerating change, globalization and intensifying competition, many leaders have recognized that effective two-way communication with employees is becoming a much more important part of organizational management, and a constructive way to harness the ideas, commitment and enthusiasm of their staff” (Forster, 2011).
Aside from improving internal communications however, the company faces severe issues in its communications with the business partners, and these must also be addressed. At the external level then, the problems of communication are revealed by the means in which the manager perceives the message sent by the tablet manufacturers. Specifically, he believes that they complain about the quality of the application due to a limited number of functionalities. Still, he does not take the time to clarify this perception. It could be that the representatives of Apple and Barnes and Noble do not want additional functionalities, but want the already existent functionalities to properly work, without any delays or bugs in the system.
The process of improving communications with the customers is somewhat similar to that of communication improvement with the employees, with the difference that the efforts are sometimes better channeled on the specific category addressed — in this case, the tablet manufacturers. The manager is still recommended to engage in listening, active listening and change his attitude towards communication, but aside from these, it is also recommended for other more specific measures to be taken.
In this order of ideas, the following steps for improving communication are recommended:
a) Requesting exemplification for clarification
b) Creating focus groups and deriving information from them
c) Understanding the message and the needs of the customers.
a) Request for exemplification
The request for exemplification refers to the situation in which the manager — or any other party in the communication process — is uncertain of what the other party is trying to communicate. In the specific case of the communications between the manager of Andalina Software and the representatives of Apple Inc. And Barnes and Noble, the manager should ask his interlocutors to explain and exemplify what they mean by increased quality. Do they refer to the need to add more features, or do they refer to an increased functionality through the provision of an application with the same features, just performing at superior quality standards? In other words, it is of the utmost importance for the manager to never assume that he understands what the interlocutors are suggesting. He should always clarify the message received. It would be wiser to ask an additional question, than to presume the wrong message.
b) Focus groups
The focus groups represent groups of individuals selected to test the application and provide the feedback from the standpoint of the consumer. It is recommended for the manager to test the application on focus groups and to improve it as necessary. Further on, in discussions with the representatives of Apple Inc. And Barnes and Nobles, the manager would compare the inputs of both parties — focus group and tablet manufacturers — and would become able to increase the exchange of information, as well as make more informed decisions.
c) Message and needs
The last recommendation to be made is that for the manager to understand the message which is being sent by the interlocutors. It is important for him to understand the view point and the needs, and then devise his future strategies so that these precise needs are served. Additionally, throughout the communication processes, these messages and needs would be used as central points in discussions.
The modern day economic agents are presented with a wide array of challenges, some deriving from the internal environment, whereas others being generated by the external environment. Firms must for instance respond to the increasing demands of customers, the changing role of employees, the shifting political and economic conditions or the increasing forces of globalization, market liberalization and competition.
Economic agents across the globe devise and implement various strategic efforts aimed at creating advantages that help them overcome the challenges of the external and internal environments. In these efforts, communications within the workplace place an immense role and they are essential to the firms’ ability to serve the current customers, as well as attract new ones.
In the context of increasing pressures, the current project has addressed the communication issues at Andalina Software, a developing company striving to create a reader for tablet computers. The firm encounters severe problems and is forced to constantly delay the launch of its application. These problems are associated with low levels of communication within the firm, and the problems are also obvious at the level of individuals. In this setting, the project has commenced at the creation of several commitments to improving personal communications. These refer to better listening, active listening, inquiring on the opinions of others and changing the attitude towards communication.
Within Andalina Software, there are two types of communication. The first is the communication between the manager and the employees, and the second is represented by the dialogue between the company’s manager and the representatives of Apple Inc. And Barnes and Noble — the two owner firms of the tablets for which Andalina develops compatible versions of the application.
Within the internal setting, the communications are one sided and the manager makes decisions that are implemented by the employees. The decisions often harm the application as they are not technologically sound, as would be desired by the software developers. Within the external setting, the messages sent by the customers were that the application is not of the quality expected and that improvements still needed to be made. The manager interpreted these quality demands as the addition of new functionalities and made new decisions that were not welcomed by the staff members. A vicious circle was created that did no good to either party. This situation could be improved through communication.
At the internal level, the recommendations formulated include changes in the managerial attitude towards communication, alongside with suggestions to increase the listening skills, become an active listener, provide feedback and answers, as well as eliminate any judgment and preconceptions when communicating (an extrapolation of the personal commitments to improving communication in the future). At the external level, the recommendations included the same reshaping of the attitude towards communications, coupled with better clarifications, the usage of focus groups or the understanding of the message and needs of the customers.
Overall, in the case of both employees as well as customers — and extrapolating, in the case of both internal and external communications — the ultimate recommendation is that of the communication processes becoming two sided.
Forster, N.S., 2011, Maximum performance: a practical guide to leading and managing people, Edward Eldar Publishing
Active listening, Mind Tools, http://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/ActiveListening.htm last accessed on January 11, 2012
2003, Managing people — communication, Business Town, http://www.businesstown.com/people/communication-improving.asp last accessed on January 11, 2012
2004, Strategies for developing listening skills, National Capital Language Resource Center, http://www.nclrc.org/essentials/listening/stratlisten.htm last accessed on January 11, 2012
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