Communication in the enterprise

Many of the issues we face in our day-to-day lives center around our inability to communicate effectively. This is especially true within the organization. The way in which we organize ourselves in the modern world is in organizational theory termed the "bureaucracy" (not to be confused with the use of the term associated with government red-tape). It is the nature of this form of organization - hierarchies of authority, separation of the office from the person and creation of common organizational goals (to name a few) - that inherently cause communication to be paradoxical.

Many paradoxes are discussed in the literature: Merton, for example highlights the fact that organizations need to produce a high degree of reliability of  behavior. Devotion to behavior leads to them becoming absolute; they are no longer conceived as relative to a set of purposes, this interferes with adaptation, thus the very conditions that conduce efficiency produce inefficiency in certain instances. The creation of organizational goals often has the effect of producing sub-groups within the organization who group together to resist the enforced goals, the original goals become defused and may cause effects very much opposite to the original intention. Crozier talks about "vicious circles" within the organization, for example, the people with the least power in the organization are often those who directly interact with the customer. There is an inherent in-balance in this situation. These employees may use their power with the customer in a manner disproportionate to their status in the organization.

The burning question is, can we use modern technology to enhance communication and in fact ultimately produce new and improved forms of human social organization ? There has been talk about the post-bureaucratic form of organization, which theorists like Selznick do not think exists.

The inherent problem with blogs, wiki's, email and twitter is the vast quantity of information that is published - it is thus very hard to maintain relevance and quality of communication. This is quite possibly the reason why search has become the most important element of the Internet. I have no doubt that these relatively new technologies can enhance the way we communicate and hence the way we organize ourselves. There are already many examples of this: Open source wiki's used to create high-quality documentation, agile software development and encyclopedias. Crowd sourcing which is becoming an effective way to create innovation within an organization. We still have some way to go, previously we needed to find ways to communicate - now we have those ways, we need to discover the mechanisms which will lead to effective communication and ultimately more effective ways of social organization.


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