The Five R’s of Effective Communication

The following blog post is provided by Cathy McPhail, BA, PMP, Cert.APM, Senior Consultant within our consulting division. 

Communication is the “successful conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings” (Oxford Dictionary) and ineffective communication is one of the most frequently cited reasons for projects falling short of their goals (PMI Pulse of the Profession Report Series).

The value of effective communications is not limited to projects, it is also extremely important to businesses and other organizations. Effective communication has been described as, “the lifeblood of business”,a building block of successful organizations”, and “the best opportunity to make an outstanding first impression”, among others. A report from Accenture in 2013 found the top priority for high-performing CIOs is providing the right information to the right person at the right time. In my experience, right format and right feedback also play a role in effective communications. Below are a few thoughts on each of the five R’s. Hopefully they will inspire you to increase the effectiveness of communications in your organization.

Right information – Effective communication is much more than the distribution of information. The key element is knowing what information will enable individuals to do their job or fulfil their role better and to ensure that is the information they get.

Right Person – The formula, N*(N-1)/2 (where N is the number of people in a team or organization), illustrates how even a small team or organization has multiple communication channels and typically they do not all need or want the same level and type of communication. A well thought out communication matrix, vetted by the individuals in the matrix, can help.

Right time – Obviously, having the right information in the hands of the right people in enough time for it to enhance decision making is extremely important. It can also be useful to stay in touch with what is going on throughout your organization or business environment so you can judge when communications are most likely to get the attention they need. If a colleague or department is faced with a looming deadline an interruption in the middle of the work day may be unwelcome and ignored. Some individuals like to catch up with emails after office hours, others do not. Marketing research has found that email open rates are higher earlier in the week and later in the day and reply rates are highest in the evening. But as each organizational culture is unique, there is no substitute for knowing your own work environment.

Right format – At MRSB Consulting we are making a conscious effort to practice ‘thoughtful reporting’. We realize our clients are busy people with a lot of demands on their time and attention. It is our job to reduce the quantity of text in the reports we prepare for them while enhancing quality analysis and readability with descriptive headings and impactful visuals. An effective communicator must continually consider the best match between the content of the communication and the needs and preferences of those he/she is communicating with. For example, email and group meetings are not suitable for sensitive topics and face-to-face meetings are probably not required to change the date and time of a meeting.

Right feedback – And finally, effective communication is not a one way street. The best communicators structure opportunities to provide feedback and watch for and respond appropriately to that feedback.

If you would like to provide feedback or share other R’s of effective communications, please email me at cathy.mcphail@mrsbgroup.com.