Communication and the importance of auditing communication flows

In our post industrialist society information is currency. Subsequently, effective communication as the primary means of transferring information, should be a dominant concern for decision makers within all organisational contexts. As identified by Nelson;

“organisations are built on a foundation of communication; communication is the physical and mental network that ties everyone – both within and without the organisation – together”(1)

Because of this importance the manner in which communication is undertaken within an organisation needs to be assessed and reassessed for like with all other practices and behaviours within an organisation communication is continually evolving. Unfortunately for us communication audits are not something that can automated. The specificity and uniqueness of  situations (organisational or otherwise) result in the necessity for individual case-by-case consideration of communication flows.

So what does a communication audit actually involve? Well in addition to a holistic perspective to ‘what is communication’ there must be a wide consideration as to what may impact, be it positively or negatively upon communication including the inherent effect of organisational culture, procedure, information behaviour as well as team structure and dynamic. Like with all things in the ‘social science’ field this process is highly HIGHLY subjective and subsequently it is not recommended that it is undertaken by individuals in the same position or if a team is geographically distributed by members all from the same location. But what advantage does a communication audit serve? define communication audits as;

It is a complete analysis of an organization’s communications -internal and/or external – designed to “take a picture” of communication needs, policies, practices. and capabilities, and to uncover necessary data to allow top management to make informed, economical decisions about future objectives of the organization’s communication (2)

Blocks or contractions of communication within an organisation can prevent it from taking advantage of opportunities and the knowledge/experience of its members for people cannot contribute ideas, suggestions or pass on valuable knowledge if they are not aware that an issue/project has arisen. Thus communication audits serve not only to examine what good (and bad) communication practices take place within an organisation but also presenting organisations (if acted upon) with the opportunity to take greater advantage of the experience/knowledge of their members. 

Next post: Elements of a communication audit. 

(1) Nelson (2005) Management Bible, John Wiley & Sons Incorporated. 



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