Lecture notes on Effective Business Communication

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Subject: Business Communication (The Lesson is Up-dated and Converted into SIM Format By: Dr. Karam Pal) Course: MBA Course Code: CP 105 Lesson: 1 INTRODUCTION TO COMMUNICATION Objective: The main objective of this lesson is to make the students learn on the subject matter of the business communication vis-à-vis its nature and importance. Structure 1.1 Introductio n 1.2 The Concept of Communication 1.3 Significance of Communication 1.4 Nature of Business Communications: A Case Study 1.5 Summary 1.6 Key Words 1.7 Self Assessment Exercise 1.8 Suggested Readings 1.1 Introduction “You cannot not communicate”. This statement is quite often misunderstood by many of us. We may be fussy about the grammar of this sentence and that is at the cost of the its spirit. It, in fact, this statement let us know that we cannot remain without commutation even if we feel as we have not communicated anything but still we have commutated everything. If you are like the majority of us, you spend more time in communicating than doing anything else. Probably you spend a hefty part of each day in one-to-one speaking, writing and listening. When you are not talking or listening, you are presumably communicating in supplementary ways like - understanding, lettering, gesturing, and drawing. Or perhaps, you are just taking in information by seeing, feeling, or smelling. All of these activities are forms of communication and certainly you do them right through most of your time. Obviously, such activity, which we are engrossed in so much, has to be significant. Perhaps, it is the most important of all our activities. It is easy to make out that communication is what has enabled us to develop the civilized society. It is one activity that we human beings clearly do better than the other creatures, and it basically explains our dominant role in this universe. Communication has enabled us to organize - to work in groups; and through organization, we have been able to overcome barriers to our existence that we could not have subjugated individually. But we need not discuss further how communication has contributed to our development as human beings. Its role is understandable to all of us. We have to articulate that communication is vital to our success and well- being in enlightened civilization. 1.2 The Concept of Communication The word communication has been derived from the Latin word 'communis' that means ‘common’. However, communication incorporates, besides commonality, the concepts of transfer, meaning and information. The communication can be defined as the process through which two or more persons come to exchange ideas and understanding among them. The definition involves two aspects in communication: 2 First, there is something, which is transmitted, such as, facts, feelings, ideas, etc. It implies that there must be a receiver if communication is to occur. The sender of message must consider the receiver while structuring his message from a technical standpoint as well as in delivering it. When the receiver is not considered, there is either no response or there is wrong response. Second, the definition emphasizes the understanding element in the communication. Sharing of understanding would be possible only when the person, to whom the message is meant, understands it in the same sense in which the sender of the message wants him to understand. Thus, communication involves something more than mere transmission of the message or transmission and physical receipt thereof. The correct interpretation of the message is important from the point of view of organizational efficiency. As such, the greater the degree of understanding present in the communication, the more the likelihood that human action will proceed in the direction of accomplishment of goals. How do we define communication? "Communication is something so simple and difficult that we can never put it in simple words," says T.S. Mathews. But we do need a definition to understand the term. In his book Communication in Business, Peter Little defines communication as follows: “Communication is the process by which information is transmitted between individuals and / or organizations so that an understanding response results.” 3 Another very simple definition of 'communication' has been provided by W.H. Newman and C.F. Summer Jr: “Communication is an exchange of facts, ideas, opinions, or emotions by two or more persons.” 'Information' is the key word in the first definition communication consists in transmitting 'information'. But this definition does not indicate the objects about which information is to be transmitted. This is precisely what is being done in the second definition. Communication transmits information not only about tangible facts and determinable ideas and opinions but also about emotions. When a communicator passes on or transmits some information, he may also, either deliberately or unconsciously, be communicating his attitude or the frame of his mind. And sometimes the latter may be more relevant to the reality that is being communicated. Often we may have come across words of high praise spoken in a scoffing tone. In such a case, the words signify nothing and the tone is the real thing. Similarly, high-sounding expressions of bravery may be only a mask to conceal a person's timidity and cowardice that may be betrayed by his facial expressions. The following definition offered by William Scott appear comprehensive and particularly satisfying to the students of 'business communication' since it touches all aspects of the communication process: “Managerial communication is a process which involves the transmission and accurate replication of ideas ensured by feedback for the purpose of eliciting actions which will accomplish organizational goals.” This definition highlights four imperative points: 4 1. The process of communication involves the communication of ideas. 2. The ideas should be accurately replicated (reproduced) in the receiver's mind, i.e., the receiver should get exactly the same ideas as were transmitted. If the process of communication is perfect, there will be no dilution, exaggeration, or distortion of the ideas. 3. The transmitter is assured of the accurate replication of the ideas by feedback, i.e., by the receiver's response, which is communicated, back to the transmitter. Here it is suggested that communication is a two way process including transmission of feedback. 4. The purpose of all communication is to elicit action. It is a fairly comprehensive definition and covers almost all aspects of communication. But two comments can be made on it: 1. The concept of ideas should be adequately enlarged to include emotions also. 2. Even in administrative communication, the purpose may not always be to elicit action. Seeking information or persuading others to a certain point of view can be equally important objectives of communication. 1.3 Significance of Communication Just as communication is vital to our existence in civilized society, it is essential to the functioning of the organizations our society has produced. In fact, we could go so far as to say that organizations exist through communication; without communication, there would be no organizations. As Herbert Simon expresses it. "Without communication 5 there can be no organization, for there is no possibility then of the group influencing the behaviour of the individual." If you need proof of the importance of communication to organized activity, you need only apply your good logic to any real life example. Take a very simple organization made up of just you and one other person. Assume that this organization has an objective - one that is unfamiliar to each of you. Now assume that each of you no longer can communicate. You cannot read; you cannot speak; you cannot write; you cannot gesture; you cannot draw. If the two of you make any progress at all, it is likely to be through individual effort. Strain your imagination as you will, there simply is no likelihood of coordinated effort without communication. Needless to say, communication is the ingredient that makes organization possible. It is the vehicle through which the basic management functions are carried out. Managers direct through communication; they coordinate through communication; and they staff, plan, and control through communication. Virtually all actions taken in an organization are preceded by communication. Just how much communicating a business organization needs depends on a number of factors. The nature of the business certainly is one. Some businesses (such as insurance companies) have a much greater need to communicate than do others (such as janitorial services). The company's organization plan also affects the volume of communication, for it generates much of the information flow. Finally, the people who make up the organization affect the extent of communication. As we would point out later, every human being is different. Each one has unique 6 communication needs and abilities. Thus, varying combinations of people produce varying needs for communication. Although communication needs may be dissimilar in different organizations and different groups of people in such organizations communication more than of us suspect. According to one generally accepted estimate, between 40 and 60 percent of the work time spent in a typical manufacturing plant involves some form of communication (speaking, writing, listening, reading). Of course, these percentages are only averages. Some employees spend much more of their time communicating. In fact, the higher up the organization structure the employee is, the more communicating he or she is likely to do. Typically, top executives spend from 75 to 95 percent of their time communicating. Unskilled labourers, on the other hand, need to communicate lesser in order to do their work. Without question, communication is important to business organizations. Therefore, it stands to reason that a business wants its communication to be done well. But all too rarely is a business satisfied with what it gets. Unfortunately, to use the often quoted words of an authority in the field, "Of all the things business executives do, they are worst at communicating”. Communication is the life blood of business. No business can develop in the absence of effective internal and external communication. Besides, communication skills of the employees are given high weightage at the time of their appointment as well as promotion. Internal Communication viz Within Organization 7 Effective internal communication is considered important for the following reasons: 1. Business has grown in size. Large business houses have a number of branches within the country and even abroad. Some of the multinational corporations are no smaller than huge empires. The central organization of a large business house is its nerve center. For its healthy and even growth, it is extremely important that the central organization maintains a thorough and up-to-date knowledge of the various activities at the branch offices, and in turn keep the branch offices will acquainted with the activities at the center, and some kind of link is maintained among the various branches. This calls for an effective and efficient network of communication. 2. Business activity has become extremely complex. This being an age of specialization, planning, production, sales, stores, advertising, financing, accounts, welfare, etc., are handled by different departments. If these departments do not communicate with one another as well as with the management, there will be no coordination among them. This may give rise to some awkward and embarrassing situations for the management. When production is fully geared up, the stores department may report shortage or non-availability of raw materials. The planners, having spent one full month to work out the details of a new project, may suddenly discover that there are no finances available to execute the project. 3. Effective communication promotes a spirit of understanding and cooperation. If there exists effective communication between the management and the employees, it helps to bring about an atmosphere of mutual trust and confidence. The employees know exactly what is expected of them, the management is aware of the potentialities and limitations of the employees and knows how to exploit the first and 8 make up for the latter. This mutual understanding is extremely beneficial to both the parties. The management gets better returns; the employees get job satisfaction. They also develop a sense of belonging and loyalty to the enterprise. 4. The significance of communication in the context of today’s complex organizations is even greater. These organizations being designed on the basis of specialization and division of labour constitute a large number of persons. The larger the size of the organization, the greater generally is the degree of specialization and division of labour and hence, the more urgent is the need for coordination. This coordination requires mutual understanding about the organizational goals, the mode of their achievement and the interrelationship between the work being performed by various individuals; and all this can be achieved through communication only. Effective communication, as such, is essential in any type of human grouping. As Haney has put it, "Communication is imminently essential in business, in government, military organizations. It is difficult, in fact, to imagine any kind of interpersonal activity which does not depend upon communication." Dealing with the problems of communication, then, becomes an important area of activity in management whose objective is the direction of individual efforts in such a way as to secure overall coordination of organizational activities. External Communication External communication includes communication with the government agencies and departments on the one hand and distributors, retailers, individual customers and general public on the other. 1. Government agencies and departments. Business organizations are required to deal with licensing authorities, foreign trade 9 offices, customs authorities, banks and other financial institutions, income tax and sales tax offices, post offices, transporters, etc. Quite frequently, they find themselves tricky situations that can be handled only through tactful negotiation are nothing but communication. 2. Distributors, retailers, individual customers, etc. Modern business is a highly competitive phenomenon. Each product of common consumption is available in hundreds of brands, not all of which sell equally well. Marketing research has revealed that the organizations that can communicate better also sell better. Sales are promoted through persuasion and persuasion is a very important aspect of communication. Communication Skill is Job Requirement Some areas like personal, public relations, marketing, sales, labour relations call for exceptional communication skills. Professionals like editors, writers, teachers, advocates, researchers etc., need a highly developed ability to communicate. Executives are also expected to make speeches, prepare pamphlets, brochures, souvenirs, and give interviews to the media in order to project a favourable image of their organization. Thus the ability to communicate effectively has become a very important job requirement. Important factor for promotion In an article titled What Do You Mean I Can't Write? Harvard Business Review, May-June 1965, John Fielden lists the ability to communicate as the most essential prerequisite for promotion of the executives. He ranks this ability higher than other essential attributes such as the capacity for hard work, the ability for making sound 10 decisions, academic qualifications and ambition-drive. And this view is endorsed by numerous surveys conducted by a number of American universities and other scholars in the field. 1.4 Nature of Business Communication: A Case Study The role of communication in organized activities is perhaps explained by a real-life illustration. By design, our illustration is both detailed and scant. It is detailed because it consists of examples of the minute and specific communication events that occur in business. It is scant because at best it covers only a sample of an almost infinite number of events. For this review we could select any organization, as communication is vital to every conceivable type. Our choice is the Typical Company, manufacturer of a line of quality whatsits. The Typical Company is moderately large, with scores of departments and hundreds of workers doing a thousand and one tasks. It employs crews of salespeople who sell the manufactured whatsits to wholesalers all over the country. Like most companies in its field, Typical works to move its products from wholesaler to retailer and from retailer to the final consumer. And it works to keep the consumer happy with the purchase. The Typical Company is indeed typical. Our review begins with the workday of Dan D. Worker, a clerk in Typical's order department. (We could, of course, have selected any of Typical's employees). Dan's daily communication activities begin the moment he awakens. But for our purposes, we shall pick up Dan's 11 activities as he rides to work in a car pool with three co-workers. Of course, Dan and his car-pool companions communicate as they travel. Obviously, communication has a social use, and riding to work is a form of social occasion for Dan and his friends. Most of their talk is about trivial matters. They talk primarily to entertain themselves and to while away the time. There is a joke or two, some comments about politics, a few words about an upcoming football game, and some talk about plans for a getaway weekend fishing trip. Such talk, of course, is of little direct concern to Typical, except perhaps as it affects the general happiness and welfare of the company's workers. In time, the conversation drifts to subjects more pertinent to Typical and its operations. Someone mentions a rumor about a proposed change in promotion policy. Then Dan and the others bring up their own collection of rumors, facts, and opinions on the subject. And in the process, they giving, receiving, or handling information. Nothing that he did directly involved making whatsits, which, of course, is the Typical Company's main reason for being. Yet the importance of his activities to Typical's operations is unquestionable. Obviously, Dan's work assignment more directly involves communication than do many others at Typical. But there are many other communication-oriented assignments in the company, and every Typical employee's workday is peppered with communication in one form or another. If we were to trace the workday of each Typical employee and combine our findings, we would come up with an infinitely complex picture of the communication that goes on at Typical. We would see that communication indeed plays a major role in Typical's operations. 12 The importance of communication in business becomes even more apparent when we consider an organization's communication activities from an overall perspective. As we can see from reviewing Dan's half hour at Typical, these activities fall in three broad categories of communication: internal-operational, external-operational, and personal. Internal-Operational Communication Internal-operational communication consists of structured communication within the organization that directly relates to achieving the organization's work goals. By ‘structured’ we mean that such communication is built into the organization's plan of operations. By ‘organization's work goals’ we mean the organization's primary reason for being - to sell insurance, to manufacture nuts and bolts, to construct buildings, and the like. The Typical Company, to use a familiar example, has as its major work goals the making and selling of whatsits. To achieve these work goals, it has an established plan of operations, in which communication plays a major role. More specifically, each Typical employee has an assignment within the plan. In order for the plan to work, some communicating must be done. Some of the assignments require certain working information. In order for all assignments to be performed as a harmonious and unified effort, certain coordinating information must be communicated. All of this information flow is internal-operational communication. Specifically, internal-operational communication is carried out through any number of structured activities. In the Typical Company, for example, must of the internal-operational information is entered into the 13 company computer from executive workstations to become part of Typical's database. From the database, programmed reports are developed to give each operations department the information it needs. Then the reports are communicated back to specific workstations; for example, sales reports and inventory records combine to communicate production needs to the production planning department. Finally, the production planning department communicates these needs to the various production departments through a strategically planned work schedule. Within each production unit and among production units, of course, additional communicating must go on. Superiors make decisions and transmit them to subordinates. Departments exchange information, and workers communicate working information with one another. Memorandums are written, reports are prepared, and conversations are held-all in the process of coordinating efforts and supplying the information needed for achieving the organization's goals. In every company division and in every activity, similar internal-operational communication occurs. External-Operational Communication External-operational communication is that part of an organization's structured communication concerned with achieving the organization's work goals that is conducted with people and groups outside the organization. It is the organization's communication with its publics- suppliers, service companies, customers, and the general public. In this category fall all of the organization's efforts at direct selling-sales representatives sales spiels, descriptive brochures, telephone call-backs, 14 follow-up service calls, and the like. Also included are all of the organization's advertising efforts-for what is advertising but a deliberate, structured communication with an organization's publics? Radio and television messages, newspaper and magazine space advertising, and point-of-purchase display material obviously play a role in the organization's plan for achieving its work objective. Also in this category is everything the organization does to enhance its public relations. These activities include the organization's planned publicity, and the condition of its physical plant. All these and many more communication efforts combine to make up the organization's external-operational communication. The extreme importance of an organization's external communications hardly requires supporting comment. Certainly it is obvious that any business organization depends on outside people and groups for its success. It is an elementary principle of business that because a business organization's success depends on its ability to satisfy customers' needs, the organization must communicate effectively with these customers. It is equally elementary that in today's complex business society, organizations depend on one another in manufacturing and distributing and services. This interdependence necessarily creates needs for communication. Like internal communications, these outside communications are vital to an organization's operation. Personal Communication Not all the communication that goes on in an organization is operational however: in fact, much of it is without purpose as far as the organization is concerned. Such communication may be classified as personal. 15 Personal communication is all the incidental exchange of information and feelings in which human beings engage whenever they come together. Human beings are social animals. They have a need to communicate, and they would communicate even when they have little or nothing to say. In fact, they communicate even when they do not communicate anything. Much of the time friends spend with one another is devoted to communication, for it is simply the thing to do when people get together. Even total strangers are likely to communicate when they are placed together, such as on a plane trip, in a waiting room, or at a ball game. Such personal communication also takes place in the work situation, and it is part of the communication activity of any business organization. Although not a component of an organization's plan of operations, personal communication can have a significant effect on its success. This effect stems from the influence personal communication can have on the viewpoints (opinions, attitudes, and beliefs) of the organization's members. Workers' viewpoints towards the organization, their fellow employees, and their assignments directly affect their willingness to do assigned tasks. And the nature of conversation in a work situation affects viewpoints. In a work situation in which heated words and flaring tempers are frequent, the participants are unlikely to make their usual productive effort. A rollicking, jovial work situation is likely to have an equally adverse effect on productivity. No doubt, somewhere between these extremes lie the ideal productive viewpoints. 16 Organization members' work viewpoint is also affecting the extent of personal communication permitted to them. Outright denial of the communication privilege can lead to emotional upset, for people hold dear their right to communicate. On the other hand, excessive personal communication can interfere directly with their work effort. Probably somewhere in the middle ground lies the optimal policy toward personal communication. Personal communication can also help form viewpoints (opinions, attitudes, beliefs). As illustrated in the account of Dan's workday at Typical, Dan and his car-pool friends spent some of their conversation time discussing a proposed new promotion policy; and in so doing, each helped crystallize the others' viewpoints. It is a process that determines much of what organization members think about their organization, co- workers and work situation in general. What they think can affect their relationship with the organization and have a direct influence on their productivity. 1.5 Summary The foregoing discussion merely browses the surface of our mind. It may hopefully help in appreciating the importance of communication to an individual and an organization. It shows how extensive communication is and how it permeates through every segment of the organization in a most complex way. It shows that good communication is vital to the organization’s successful operation and equally imperative for a man’s personality development. These conclusions, combined with the convincing evidence that most organizational communication is inadequate, leads to yet another conclusion: that communication is an 17 area that deserves further study by those concerned with improving the organizational operations. 1.6 Key Words ♦ Communication: It is an attempt to share understanding by two or more persons. ♦ Sender: He is a person who initiates the communication process. ♦ Receiver: The listener who receives and encoded message and attempt to decode the same in its true spirit. ♦ Message: it is an encoded idea transmitted by the sender. ♦ Internal and External Communication: A communication within organization is internal communication and communication with outside the organization is external communication. 1.7 Self Assessment Questions 1. Attempt a suitable definition of the term communication and elaborate your definition. 2. "The single most significant characteristic of the human race is the ability to communicate." Discuss. 3. "Communication is the sum of all things one person does when he wants to create understanding in the mind of another. It is a bridge of meaning. It involves a systematic and continuous process of telling, listening and understanding." Discuss. 4. Write a not on the need and importance of business communication. 5. What is meant by the communication situation? Do the following constitute communication situations? (a) An Englishman speaking in English to an illiterate Indian; 18 (b) Two young boys talking to each other in a code language, which they have evolved themselves; (c) A man muttering to himself; (d) A young lover talking to the moon? 6. What are the various steps in the communication cycle? What is brain drain? Why does brain drain occur? 1.8 Suggested Readings 1. Pal, Rajendra and Korlahalli, J. S., Essentials of Business Communication. th 2. Fred Luthans, Organizational Behaviour, Boston, McGraw-Hill, 8 edition, 1998. 3. Kaul, Asha, Effective Business Communication. 4. Lesikar, Raymond V. and Pettit John D, Business Communication: th Theory and application, 6 edition, Richard D Irwin publication. 5. Sharma, R. C. , Business Communication and Report Writing. 6. Varinder Kumar, Raj Bodh, Business Communication, Kalyani Publishers, New Delhi, 2001. 19Subject: Business Communication (The Lesson is Up-dated and Converted into SIM Format By: Dr. Karam Pal) Course: MBA Course Code: CP 105 Lesson: 2 Effective Communication Skills Objective: The major objective of this lesson is to create an understanding in the minds of students regarding various communication skills and also let them know the relevance of such skills. Structure 2.1 Introduction 2.2 Objective of Business Communication. 2.3 Effective Communications Skills 2.4 Summary 2.5 Key Words 2.6 Self Assessment Questions 2.7 Suggested Readings. 2.1 Introduction Communication is the lifeblood of an organization and without it organization cannot stay alive. As such, the top management of an organization should ensure that adequate and smooth communication flows in all directions and it is effective as well. A periodic review of the existing pattern of communication effectiveness should be made. This review would, on the one hand, reveal the direction in which the existing situation falls short of organizational requirements and, on the other would reveal the underlying forces responsible for the prevailing state of affairs as also the actions required to remove those. Communication is, however, one of the most difficult of all the managerial activities to measure. Quantitative and objective proof of the success of

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