Email is by far the most ubiquitous communication medium in modern business.
It is quick, global, easy to use, can hit multiple recipients in a single stroke, and provide a permanent (and often legal) record of correspondence.
As with all media, though, there is an appropriate time and place for its use, and some of those benefits can also work against you.
Talking to many businesses, you will find email is actually over-used: information is overloaded; people get unnecessarily cc’d on things; there is pressure to reply; messages often lack context – attempts at humour are regularly misunderstood; and once sent, things are all-but impossible to recall.
The best emails are simple, to the point, specific in the action they require of the receiver, and reinforced through other messaging, such as a telephone chat.
Another medium is the one we spent the last Module discussing: the written project plan.
The benefits – indeed, the primary purpose – of the project plan is to communicate to stakeholders exactly what is going on, what is required of them, and their relative place in the overall project.
Nevertheless, because the project plan is a multi-layered and (as we shall see) regularly changing series of documents, it requires dedicated effort to maintain during delivery.
There is also the risk that it can be readily circumvented by project team members and stakeholders who just want to ‘get on with it’.
Oral communication methods, such as telephone calls and face-to-face conversations, allow for a much deeper transferral of knowledge, especially as they are interactive and in real time.
Despite this, time is often too short for conversations.
You should also be mindful that, without a written record, messages are open to subjective interpretation and recall.
Hopefully you can apply this critical process of establishing the pros and cons to other communications media you use, such as video-conferencing, formal letters, and social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
The point here is that an over-reliance on a single communication medium is ultimately ineffective.
Not only do we need to choose the best medium based on the richness and importance of the message, the circumstances of the receiver and the likelihood of noise, we also may need to reiterate the same message via different channels to ensure it reaches everyone and is understood.
There is no definitive framework that states in this circumstance, use this channel; nonetheless with observation and experience you can learn what works best for you and your individual stakeholders.