Monthly Archives: November 2014

Rich or Lean? Five ways to determine the best form of communicating a message.

It’s easy to fall into lazy habits, mistaking the convenience of technology for impactful communication. How often do we stop to think about the control technology has on the way we communicate and how our messages are delivered?

We have a nifty piece of technology at Slade Group. It’s an instant messaging application that allows us to communicate with anyone in the business. Nowadays that’s not revolutionary, but it can be highly useful. Sitting in our Sydney office, I can shoot off a message to a colleague in Melbourne and receive a same-time response, while I continue with my work. My message is not lost in a clogged email inbox or dismissed amongst other text message clutter.

Interruptions can break your concentration however, especially when you’re focused on completing a task. A pop-up window appearing in the middle of your screen while you’re working is much like a person appearing at your desk… unfortunately the app cannot distinguish when it’s appropriate to queue jump. What about asking the person next to you a question via instant message or email instead of simply lifting your head and speaking? This is a crime we are all guilty of. So where do we draw the line?

Daft and Lengel developed a model they called the Hierarchy of Media Richness (1986) which states that communication can be delivered through rich or lean mediums. A rich medium (face-to-face conversations or video chat) is ideal for complex messages such as technical information and a lean medium (instant message) for snippets of information. For example, if you delivered financial modelling or a sales forecast via SMS, I’d argue the weight of your message would be diminished by the small screen. And if you wanted to invite a colleague to lunch and put together a PowerPoint to present your offer, I’d say you wouldn’t even get the projector warmed up before your colleague was leaving the room.

So here’s my advice for success with Rich and Lean (hoping that blogging is a rich enough method of communication to get this message across):

  1. Short message or text is for simple and immediate requests and comments
  2. For more than a few sentences, send an email or better yet, pick up the phone
  3. Save discussions involving three or more critical points for meetings
  4. Take a few minutes out of your busy day to walk around the office and speak to people face-to-face – it’s a healthy workplace habit and helps build internal relationships
  5. Always consider the aim and purpose of your message or question and ask yourself, “Is this the best way to deliver this?”

Daft and Lengel say finding the appropriate medium to deliver the message is not only essential to effective communication, but also leads to better results. What communication habits are you planning on changing?

And what are your tips for better communication?

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Back to the future in five headlines

What could have turned into a navel gazing memory trip for old timers, instead turned up a treat of unexpected prescience. Revisiting Slade Reports from the 1980s, we’ve uncovered some headlines that were surprisingly accurate and still have relevance 30 years later. Have a quick look at these:

Slade Report, September 1985: The Temporary is Here to Stay
Fortune Magazine, 2014: The Rise of the Permanent Temporary Worker
Both articles refer to the growing trend of temporary or contract staffing, and the benefits and pitfalls for both employees and employers.

Slade Report, September 1985: The Ins and Outs of the EOA (National Committee on Discrimination in Employment and Occupation)
Federal Government Website, 2014: What is EEO?
EEO (Equal Employment Opportunity) means that all people regardless of gender, race, colour, age, marital or parental status, sexual preference, disability or religious belief have the right to be given fair consideration for a job or other job related benefits such as staff training and development.

Slade Report, October 1986: Technology is the Answer,  Not the Problem
The Guardian, 2013:  Technology as Our Planet’s Last Best Hope

Slade Report, October 1986: Women in Management Vital to Australian Business
Sam Moystin in The Daily, November 2014:
This is the Leadership Challenge for Australia. Are we up to it?
This week, in committing to reduce unemployment, raise participation and create quality jobs globally, G20 leaders agreed to focus on significantly reducing the gap in participation between men and women by 25% by 2025. Australia’s genuine engagement with this commitment could provide us with the much-needed impetus to embrace a wave of cultural change across our workplaces. And we should, because it will not only grow the participation and advancement of women but it will answer the needs of a rapidly changing working population, while improving productivity and supporting growth.

Slade Report, July 1986: Executives Threatened by Industrial Democracy
Neilsen Report,
2014: What’s Empowering the Digital Consumer?
The language may have changed, but the power of the Davids vs Goliaths has already reached a tipping point through social media.

And there we have it – back to the future! On one hand we think we’ve advanced so far, but dig a little deeper and it seems we’re still grappling with similar issues in our world @work.

What do you remember? What do you see now?

Featured image: Time Machine by Coppernic on Flickr  Creative Commons licence and copyright

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Technology is the answer, not the problem.

This month The Slade Report celebrates our first anniversary with a series of articles from the printed newsletter published under the same banner in the mid 1980s. Some 28 years ago we highlighted the importance of technology in shaping the world @work, which has unsurprisingly held true. Enjoy this abridged version with a few editor’s comments on the side (aka The Zeitgeist of 1986).

Aided and abetted by sustained high commercial interest rates (interesting contrast) and the growing use of temporary labour, the shape of business is changing from the organisations of the 1950s and 60s. It is slimming in middle management and changing in its content. But perhaps the most important influence in organsisational structure in the eighties is technology. There is a need to focus on the question of how we do our work in order to determine who does it. (seems a rather esoteric question)

The second half of the twentieth century will be characterised as a period of burgeoning technical advance. Computer power is here to stay. (!!!!!) When combined with satellite communication inspired from Buck Rogers cartoons of only thirty years ago, business has to carefully re-appraise itself on how it will operate in the future and put itself into a position of continual adjustment for growth and even survival. (oh my, satellite communication)

Australia does not need the kind of structural unemployment which befalls the UK labour market. (same same, only 30 years difference) And we don’t need companies which won’t adapt to an evolutionary environment. Dinosaurs are left behind in every era – in the eighties and beyond the skeletons will be derelict corporations. (true true)

Yes, jobs have and will be lost to technology, but this is where employers, governments and educational institutions must concentrate their efforts to retrain the nation’s obsolete labour force to again be productive. (continues to be a work in progress)

The demands of both international and internal competition are such that no company can carry ‘passengers’ engaged in less than capacity performance.

In manufacturing, particularly metal fabrication and transport equipment industries, the march of robotics is undeniable.

In 1982, there were about 100 robotic units in Australia. Today, that total is closer to 700 and is expected to double again within four years. (180,000 industrial robotic units were shipped in 2013)

This augurs good news for competiveness and potential for employment in the processing, accounting and sales of the goods manufactured by robots. (we’re probably only now realising the potential for bespoke manufacturing)

So, after the primary industry has been thinned out by applied technology, now follows the manufacturing sector. Technology is swelling the ranks of the employed in the service sector and service aspects in manufacture process.  Technology is changing the labour patterns – away from dull, repetitive and sometimes uncomfortable tasks to more satisfying, challenging roles. It is providing productivity: the key to economic performance. We have to grapple with how to best harness the opportunities technology offers business, and how best to adapt a workforce so it is capable of contributing in our brave new world.

Geoff Slade  (Prognosticator)

This article was first published in The Slade Report newsletter, October 1986

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