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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Describe various channels of communication.

Describe various channels of communication. Identify various types of communication networks found in your organization. Which is the most effective and why?
Answer. “Communication is an exchange of facts, ideas, opinions, emotions by two or more persons”. Communication is the process by which information is transmitted between individuals and or organization so that an understanding response results.

Organizational communication establishes a pattern of formal communication channels to carry information vertically and horizontally. To ensure efficient and effective accomplishment of objectives, information is exchanged. Information is passed upward from employees to supervisors and laterally to adjacent departments. Instructions relating to the performance of the department and policies for conducting business are conveyed downward from supervisors to employees. The organization carries information from within the department back up to top management. Management furnishes information about how things are going, notifies the supervisor of what the problems are, and provides requests for clarification and help. Supervisors, in turn, keep their employees informed and render assistance. Supervisors continually facilitate the process of gaining necessary clarification and problem solving; both up and down the organization. Also, supervisors communicate with sources outside the organization, such as vendors and customers.

Communication network is a structured fabric of the organization, made up of the system of lines, or channels, which are interconnected. Organizational communication is really the flow of information through the networks of interrelated human role relationships.

Types of networks
Formal network - Systematically established for the transmission of messages through defined relationships.
• Follows organizational structure defined by org. charts, etc.
Informal network
• No permanent structure. Employees joint/disband as a function of particular issue or situation, an emergent structure.
• Suggests how communication networks actually work
• Can route around damage of formal network communication
• Situationally derived and spontaneously creates an organizational structure of it's own

The channel of communication under the formal network is narrow, but it allows for flow of essential information. Moreover, it is easy to maintain, orderly in nature, supports the authority of the superiors and provides for closeness of contact thereby reducing channels of miscommunication. It has certain limitations, such as, bottlenecks in the flow, enhancing organizational distance, greater possibilities of transmission, errors, screening at various filter points, etc.

The informal channel is the result of the operation of the social forces at workplace. Formal communication exists to meet the utilitarian needs of the organization, informal communication is the method by which people carry on social, non-programmed activities within the formal boundaries of the system. The informal channel operates at much greater speed. This channel also satisfies the communication needs of the various persons in the organization.

Network Structures
 The wheel: The wheel is characterized by the centralized position of a clear leader, who is the only one who can send messages to all members and the only one who can receive messages from all members.
 The Y: The y pattern is somewhat less centralized than the wheel, but more centralized than some of the other patterns.
 The Circle: The circle has no leader; here there is total quality. Each member of the circle has exactly the same authority or power to influence the group.
 The Chain: The chain is similar to the circle except that the end members may communicate with only one person each.
 The All-Channel: The all-channel or star pattern is like the circle in that all members are equal and all have exactly the same amount of power to influence others, except that each member in this pattern may communicate with any other member. This pattern allows for the greatest member participation. Communication through these networks occurs often but not always face-to-face. Messages may be written in informal memos or in formal letters and reports.

Example: Indian Oil Corporation
I am familiar with IOC. Indian Oil Corporation, one of the largest commercial undertaking in India is the only Indian company to feature in Fortune's Global 500 listing of the world's largest industrial and services companies. Amongst the oil and gas companies, IOC ranked 16th in the world and 8th in Asia by sales. IOC was formed as Indian Oil Co. Ltd. in 1959 and it became a corporation in 1964, when Indian Refineries Ltd. was merged with it consequent to privatization of the sector by the government.

The corporation has the country's largest network of on-land crude and product pipeline, with combined length of 6453Km and capacity of 43.43mtpa.

IOC comprises of the Head Office, which is located in Mumbai. The country is divided into four regions and the regional offices are connected to the Head Office. For instance, the Western Region comprises of the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.

The regional offices are in turn connected to the State Offices. Each region comprises of Depots, Terminals, LPG Plants and AFS (Aviation Fuelling Station). All the information from the State Offices are communicated to the Regional Offices and from there the information is communicated to the Head Office.

The various means of communication are:

Daily Communication
Daily Activities Reports (DAR): Daily reports are sent about all the inventory and stocks at various depots, terminals and the LPG plants.

Management Information Systems (MIS): These provide information regarding the amount of consumption taking place at the depots, terminals etc. Also, the requirements are calculated on a daily basis. The flow of information is generally hierarchical. Also, all the information need to be authorized through the proper channels. However, in case of daily reports authorization may take place at the manager level, but in the case of other informations authorization needs to be done at the Sr. Manager level before it is passed on the Regional Office. In some cases however, information is authorized by the DGM before it is forwarded to the Regional Office.

Modes of communication
• Inter Office Memos - These memos are used for communication within the organization. They are used for requests, inquiries and flow of information within the organization.
• Emails - They are used for inter as well as intra office communication. Emails are generally used for informal communication but need to follow by written communication.
• Faxes - Faxes are used for interoffice communication. They are used for communication between the terminals, depots and the regional offices. Also, for communication between Regional Office and Head Office.
• Very High Frequency (VHF) - This is a mode of communication which is done using satellites, generally at the time of urgencies. For eg: this mode of communication was used when Gujarat was devastated by earthquake on 26th January 2001.
• Hotline - This is a direct line of communication which is used for communication generally when the pipelines are being laid or when petrol, diesel etc. are being transmitted through the pipelines.
• Reports - Besides, the daily activities reports there are Safety Reports as well as Quality Control Reports, which are generated.

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