This is a question that many people often ask us. Yet the answer is something that everyone already knows. Internal communications is the communication that is currently occurring in your team or organisation.
What makes great internal communications?
So the question that people actually mean to ask us would probably be: What makes great internal communications? And related to that: How would I know when my internal communications is less than ideal, and how can I improve it?
These few questions sound simple, but the answer is not so straightforward, because it requires us to first understand about how communication works, and how organisations behave.
What internal communications is definitely not, is that it is only about the messages that the management pushes down to the staff.
As a subject, internal communications is an inter-disciplinary study that borrows from systems thinking, network theory, communication studies, critical discourse and organisational behaviour and development. It can be seen as a very specific aspect of OB/OD, but it is one aspect which takes the organisational culture as a given.
While the organisational culture and its communication is inextricably linked, we do not look at the culture per se, but look instead at the cultural evidence embedded in the communication across the different levels of the organisation. This provides a scientific perspective on whether the communication culture in the organisation is aligned with where it wants to be, and what it can potentially achieve.
How communication works
The Weaver model is a well-known theory which shows us the fundamental components of any piece of communication: the sender, the receiver, the coding and encoding that happens at both ends, and the channel and accompanying noise.
Different aspects of this model has been well-researched on and known to many, that is why there is rich literature on how body language and tone of voice affects the message, and how cultural differences and frames of mind can cause misunderstandings.
Yet this model is focused on looking at communication between 2 individuals or a small group of people. When expanded to the organisational context, it is unable to provide the full answers for various forms of communication that exist. To understand that better, we need to look away from the humanities and social sciences.
We can look at any organisation as a biological system, just like the human body. Every part of the system is in charge of a specific function. But for it to be able to do a good job, it has to communicate with each and every other part in the system. How it does so, and how closely connected each part is to other parts, then differs.
Yet no matter what, a few principles remain the same:
- Each part communicates with every other part in some way or another;
- Depending on what the communication is about, different channels are used to suit the recipient;
- The message always reaches its intended recipient through biological tagging (unless there is illness or break down in bodily function);
- There is always clear positive and/or negative feedback loop for the system to adjust.
How do we use this to gain a deeper understanding to internal communications? We will be exploring each of these principles in detail in our following articles, slowly peel back the layers and explore the different aspects of our internal communications framework.