Week 2: Defining Organizational Communication

Communication in general is tough, let’s face it. I mean, how many times have you, the sender, said something, and thought you were perfectly clear only to learn that the receiver failed to capture what you really meant!?! Additionally, I cannot count the number of times I have been instructed, counseled, or reminded that, “Communication is not what is delivered, but is instead what is received.”

But now after learning about the four different communication approaches — informational transfer, transactional process, strategic control, and balance of creativity and constraint — I think I may now have a way to better ensure that the communication I am trying to deliver is received as I intended — at least I hope so.

To begin, I now understand more formally that to be successful with my communication I must not only be mindful of my audience, but also of the best fitted communication approach to ensure communicative success. And to meet with success, I now realize that I may need to use more than one communication approach in a single meeting, or during a single one-on-one encounter with a colleague or personal acquaintance. I cannot honestly say I have not given much thought to this prior to this chapter.

So let’s begin.


Informational transfer, per our authors, is ideal for disseminating information to a large group at once, so watching the evening news, sending company wide HR announcements, presenting at team meetings, and attending public seminars come to mind as appropriate venues for this approach. And I must admit, I like this approach because it is quick and direct.

Yet, I must agree with our authors, there are some significant cons to this approach, as I am led to believe that my application of this approach, in incorrect venues, has been responsible for my receiving the comment that, “Communication is not what is delivered, but is instead what is received” because in this approach the receiver is passive. A passive receiver, one who is uninvolved in constructing the meaning of the message means there is a good probability we will not be on the same page regarding the root meaning of the communication.


Of the four communication approaches, transactional process, is the most abstract to me, and to be honest, I do not feel this approach works well in organizations. I feel this way, because in my opinion, if both roles (sender and receiver) are being played out by individuals at the same time, it seems hard to know if anyone is truly listening? For instance, I think Steve Covey said it best, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”, and I believe this would be rampant during the transactional process approach, as both roles (sender and receiver) are at play simultaneously.

Perhaps I am wrong in my interpretation, but I think this approach really only works well with close friends, family members, or common social groups (like Sierra Club, Utah Humane Society, etc) because shared meaning is likely already there, or it’s at least easier to obtain from new and long-term members/individuals.

Strategic-control reminds me of religion and G_d — multiple meanings open to interpretation in a single communication which some argue gives religious leaders the power to control their congregation. https://www.ted.com/playlists/14/are_you_there_god

As our authors discuss in the chapter, strategic-control allows communication to have multiple goals, and is used as a tool for influencing (motivating) and shaping environments (creating change to remain relevant in today’s markets). I believe this approach is highly valued by organizations, especially those in highly competitive markets. Furthermore, I find value in the approach because I am often asked in my current position to lead by influence on many group projects, as I do not have direct authority over individuals in my cross-functional teams and projects.

But I must say, the fact that strategic-control allow rooms for strategic ambiguity is very concerning, because I rarely find people transparent in their communications. Often times I required to read between the unspoken lines, and strategic ambiguity adds to this complexity even if I use the seek-and-tell communication tools, or ask for feedback to ensure understanding.

http://www.slideshare.net/RioneDrevale/ch9-managing-the-entrepreneurial-organization slide 12

And finally, we move to our authors favorite communication approach, hence the title of their book, balance of creativity and constraint. I must admit, it seems the most honest approach towards communication, if we examine the benefit balance of creativity and constraint offer us — to recognize that individuals and organizations are not always aligned in their goals and that alignment is sometimes in conflict. Just by recognizing this simple fact, it seems this approach is superior to the previous 3 discussed above, because this recognition adds meatiness to this approach, at least in my opinion, as it seems this approach is almost self-aware.

In closing, each approach seems appropriate to use at one time or another in my opinion, except transactional process. And while, I find informational transfer and strategic-control the most appealing, I must admit, it is because of laziness. You see, I value direct, quick, efficient communication, but I now know that is not always the best approach so perhaps I will find myself trying to employ balance of creativity and constraint in the future.