How many workplace issues are introduced to you as, "We've got a communication problem?"
"Communication" Is The Presenting Problem
Communication is a catch-all phrase. It's generic, socially
acceptable, and really just sends the signal that someone wants to
start a conversation. But it probably won't end up being about
Psychologists and counselors refer to these kinds of introductory pronouncements as "presenting" problems." They're a call for help when someone doesn't know what to do or may not even be aware of the real issue.
Unless you know the genuine issue, you can spend a lot of time creating an elegant solution for the wrong problem.
In organizations, communication is the #1 presenting problem. Check it out. Every survey I've seen in large corporations highlights "communication" as a major snafu.
How To Be a Top-Notch Diagnostician
The next time someone lays a communication issue on you, follow through with:
"That sounds interesting. Help me out. Describe specifically what you see happening and why it's a problem."
You may discover that the Marketing group refused to follow guidelines from Research and ended up slightly misrepresenting a product. There are at least two issues here: performance and ethics. Neither has to do with communication.
You don't yet know the cause. But you do know the real situation and where to focus your energy.
How many presenting problems can you uncover today?
If you've got a favorite "presenting problem" story, toss it into the mix with a comment below. You may help someone else see how to probe and work on the right thing at the right time.
If communication is important to you, you might also enjoy: Use The Right Words At Work.
Added bonus: For more on this, you can dowload what Michelle Malay Carter has written on the topic.