(The Four C's)
by Lee McGaan

COMMITMENT - Members of the organization at all levels must be committed to the idea that effective communication is a high priority in their jobs. Organizations that view effective communication as, "something we will work on when we can afford the time/money, etc." will have communication problems. Support for good communication from the top (e.g. rewards or corrections) is crucial.

CONTEXT - The meaning of any message is always, in significant part, determined by the context. Organizations that communicate effectively work hard to insure that the sender and the receiver share similar contexts for messages so that both understand them in the same way.

Openness is the way to shared contexts. Providing as much factual information as possible and creating opportunities for staff at various levels to share their perspectives as well as knowledge increases understanding and builds shared meanings. Organizations that have relatively closed systems of communication (in which subordinates and superiors do not share the same information or are not aware of each other's perspectives) have communication problems (e.g. false rumors, divisiveness and sniping, turf protection, etc.).

CONSISTENCY - Even in small groups, and certainly in large organizations, important themes, goals, facts, and perspectives must be repeated often, in various forms and through a variety of channels, if they are to be understood, remembered and acted upon. This is especially true when channels of mass communication are used.

Presenting the same themes, goals, facts and perspectives over time is crucial to organizational success. If each message presentation seems to alter the substance of the message, confusion and suspicion can occur. Words and actions must be consistent or cynicism will result; the organization will be thought of as hypocritical

CONCERN - Communicators, especially leaders, must be concerned with the receiver's point-of-view first. Only the sender of a message can adapt it to improve its effectiveness. Organizations that communicate well tend to place the primary responsibility for effective communication on senders; those that blame receivers for problems have communication failures regularly.

Good communicators recognize that they must be concerned, not only with the content of their messages, but with what those messages say about their relationships with the receivers. Clear, accurately conveyed information that allows receivers to infer that the sender does not value them as persons will not be well received.

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 Last updated 11/7/2003