The Shannon-Weaver Model of Communication – Identifying Office NPT™ in Communication
By Gabe Wilson and Bonnie Bryan Denham
Effective communication is the cornerstone to all organizational processes. It takes on increasing importance the more technical the nature of the message. Take a drilling program, for example. Producing this type of document requires several stakeholders with varying levels of skill, expertise, and authority. These contributors will conduct multiple meetings, manage a variety of side projects, and utilize many different types of media formats, including Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Adobe Acrobat, SharePoint, AutoCAD, and a host of other programs. All of these people, using all of these tools, are striving to create a “message” that needs to be communicated to other team members.
It’s easy to see how managing this level of complexity is difficult and may make it hard for the team’s message to come through as clearly as it should or they desire; there is a myriad of potential problems. Writers will be at varying skill levels. The wrong people will attend, or the right people may not attend, important meetings. Tiny details will be overlooked. A dysfunctional folder structure may result in the wrong version being used on the rig, or inefficient channels such as e-mail may be used to transfer files and result in missed updates, incorrect information, or even multiple versions of files. Without planning, inefficiency is inevitable with the likelihood that some portion of the desired results will be lost. And, as in the game of telephone (where a word is whispered from one person to another around a circle until the original sender confirms (and usually denies) the accuracy of the returned word form the final receiver), the document created may end up communicating something entirely different than the original plan.
To identify inefficiencies and to ensure that your communication delivers the intended message, it’s useful to start with a model and then scale upward as the situation dictates. The Shannon-Weaver Communication Model is such a model. It was originally a mathematical model used in digital communication that was then applied to personal communication. It is most commonly used to describe interpersonal communication, but with a little explanation can be applied to organizational teams. The explanation below should get you thinking about a wide variety of issues for further investigation. In subsequent articles we will cover topics as they apply to your organization and help you dig into those issues. But first, let’s cover the basics of the model.