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?