5Why Bad Communication Is Bad BusinessThe Unintended Consequences of Mixed and Missed Messages

Think twice before you speak because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.

—Napoleon Hill

Generally speaking, business communication leaves more than a bit to be desired. Messages are frequently not received, much less fully understood. To propose solutions at this point, though, would be a bit premature. Even if you concede that the use of language and e-mail isn’t ideal, are you supposed to make major changes in communication in your organization just because I say so? In other words, what are the effects of others not receiving our messages?

On a macroeconomic level, the precise monetary figure of bad business communication is impossible to quantify. We can only guess. The McKinsey Global Institute report referenced in Chapter 4 is not shy with its estimate. Its authors concluded that widespread use of social technologies could vastly improve communication and collaboration and yield savings of nearly $1 trillion.

Perhaps nowhere is poor business communication more evident than on discrete projects. (See “From Organizations to Projects: The Evolution of Work” in Chapter 2.) When organizations implement new systems, adopt new processes, and develop new methodologies, employees often find themselves removed from the comfort zones of their day jobs. Their responsibilities change; they often have to do two jobs for the duration ...

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