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Organizational Communication: New Trends and Approaches

written by: N Nayab•edited by: Ronda Bowen•updated: 4/30/2011

Competitive pressures and an increasing open business environment have forced an overhaul of organizational systems. Like all other subsystems, organizational communication has also undergone a transformation in recent years.

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    New Approaches to Organizational Communication 

    Communication conveys information among entities. Organizational communication is the analysis of communication systems and the role of communications in an organization. The application of organizational communication traditionally helped co-ordinate the internal and external activities of an enterprise. The new approaches to organizational communication links communication to business strategy.

    Organizations were earlier coherent entities, with defined rules and regulations governing relationship among stakeholders. Of late, changes in the business environment, especially globalization, a more open culture marked by free flow of information, and increasing competitive pressures resulted in changes to the general nature of organizations.

    Organizations are now shifting alliances of different stakeholders such as owners, partners, managers, workers, suppliers, consumers, and other representatives of the society. Constant changes result in the organization remaining in a continuous state of flux, and the varying levels of power and conflicting interests among the stakeholders shape the course of the organization more than static rules and regulations. Such changes have affected all structures and systems of organizations, including organizational communication.

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    The three major elements of contemporary organizational communication standards are:

    • Face to face communication among stakeholders, which allow synchronization of different activities occurring at the same time
    • Sequential linking, based on both face to face and meditated communication, which allows linkage of different organizational activities that occur at different times at the same place
    • Meditated communication practices that link organizational activities stretching across time and space.

    The new approach to organizational communication give importance on all three elements, and consider the need to shift from one form of communication to another rapidly as indispensable for speedy decision making, and as a key factor that defines success.

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    Physical Infrastructure

    One important consideration in the new approach to organizational communication is integration of the physical infrastructure. The organizations of today adopt a basket of communication devices such as internet, fax, telephone, and others, using multiple mediums such as wire lines, radio signals and satellite.

    Organizations require seamless and uninterrupted communication channels to import communication that serves as energy for the organization’s subsystems. The integrity and reliability of such devices and mediums becomes a key source of competitive advantage, and very often the lifeline without which organizations cannot survive.

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    The new approach tries to leverage organizational communication as a tool for organizational transformation.

    The design of the organization’s communication channels influence the design and structure of the contemporary organization. For instance, availability of multiple channels of communication, and permeability of the communication channels to all levels of the organizations help in establishing a flexible organizational structure, allowing the organization to reap the resultant benefits such as greater workforce flexibility, and lesser bureaucratic hassles.

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    Result Oriented Approach

    Until recently, organizations attempted to ensure effective communication across the organization by applying communication theory and conceptual analysis.

    The new approach to organizational communication however focuses on human relationships and the intersection between communication structures, processes, and practices to ensure effective communications. This approach considers the impact of the communication mechanism on stakeholders, the attitudes of the stakeholders towards the communication technology, and the extent to which organizational communication boost or impedes the cultural and interaction patterns of the organization.

    The new approach gives primacy to impact of the communication, in contrast to the traditional practice of evaluating organizational communication by the soundness of the structure of communication systems. The focus of evaluation now centers on three practical dimensions: how the established patterns of communications contribute to organizational survival, how the communication influences internal and external organizational structure and performance, and how the political and moral standards confer legitimacy, or define power equations, rather than the extent to which the installed communication systems comply with theoretical percepts.

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    Kovacic, Brainslav. (1994). “New Approaches to Organizational Communication.” Suny Press. ISBN 0791419177, 9780791419175.

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