Wilson & Associates Monthly Newsletter, July 2016
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.
Using Figure 1, communication occurs when a sender encodes a message into a medium and then sends that medium through a channel to a receiver who decodes the message and provides feedback. Surrounding the process is noise which can inhibit clear understanding of the communication.
Figure 1. Shannon-Weaver Communication Model
Problems can occur throughout the model and are more likely when the model is scaled up to accommodate a team creating a message and sending it to another team to decode, using multiple channel options and media formats. To explain using the Drilling Procedure example:
- Sender: The team constructing the message. They are the information source(s). Deadlines are tight; multiple authors mean that consistency often suffers.
- Encode Message: The process of encoding is the writing of the procedure – how it comes together. Whether we all can admit it or not, writing clearly is not everyone’s strong suit. When designing a well program, it can be argued how much writing ability should be valued over the ability to do sound engineering. But it does little good to have all the knowledge in the world and be unable to put it on paper to be translated into action. And let’s remember that in today’s global workplace there are a variety of cultures and backgrounds coming together for input into a procedure. These differences in styles and backgrounds can on occasion muddle the message and contribute to a lack of clarity in the final document.
- Medium: How the message is packaged. There are a wide variety of choices that are available to package a message. Spreadsheets, word processing documents, teleconferences, and even texts. We’ve all seen examples of people sending emails when a phone call or brief meeting would have clarified the issue more easily.
- Channel: How the information is sent. Information is sent many different ways. Versions are emailed to a rig, pulled from shared drives or other file-sharing software, delivered via hard copies, or more likely some combination of the above.
- Decode Message: How the information is understood. In documents, trouble decoding the information could be as simple as a word file that takes too long to open or a binder that is too thick and unwieldy.
- Receiver: In our Drilling Procedure example, this is the team offshore that is set to carry out the instructions. This is where good writing comes in to play. The technical level of the audience needs to be understood. In our opinion it is better to write down to the audience than to assume a level of knowledge that may be lacking. In our experience, this point gets a lot of discussion. The push back to inserting increasing levels of detail is almost always, “they know what they’re doing on the rig.” The only way to answer this statement is to ask the question, “Would you bet your life on it?” And this goes both ways.
- Noise: Is anything that may hinder the clear understanding of the document. This could be little things such as an unclear document format as evidenced by too much bold text, small fonts, too many fonts, mixed unit abbreviations, and incorrect or partial schematics and diagrams. By themselves these are not show stoppers, but are definitely issues that detract from understanding. Noise can also be present in writing style in steps that are too long and hard to understand or in steps that are alarmingly brief and assume knowledge that may be missing in the receiver.
- Feedback: Is the reply you get from the receiver. In personal communication it is simply the response. In the example of our procedure, it’s a little more complex. Was the work completed in the manner instructed? If not, why? How many calls did it take to clarify a step? Were mistakes spotted and fixed on site? Was there unexpected trouble?
The team needs to have a clear understanding of the message it wants to deliver, understand the audience that will receive the message, be aware of how the message will be transmitted, have systems in place to check that the message received was understood and executed as intended, and most importantly, have a feedback loop that allows for re-purposing the message in the event it contains errors or missing instructions. If you have communication issues on your team, chances are that by understanding how to apply this model you can identify where the break down has occurred and repair it to reduce your Office NPT™.
This article was written by John Wilson and first appeared in the June 1986 issue of the Houstonian Magazine. John had just started working for Gulf Publishing Company, where he stayed until 2000, after being laid off from his previous company in April of that year.
Hard times don’t mean a company has to be hard·hearted.
We sat facing each other – the boss and the worker – in the study of his home. He spoke softly, talking of the sagging oil economy and the economic reversals suffered by the overseas parent company. When he was finished, so was I. My relationship with his company was terminated. Like thousands of others, I was now laid off, gone, set aside for better times.
As I sat, half-listening, I recalled that only sixty days earlier, I had done the same thing to my assistant editor and production manager. One Friday evening, soon after the start of the New Year, I called each of them into my office. We sat around my glass-topped table, and I fired them.
Both responded in essentially the same fashion, “You’re kidding?” I assured them this was not a joke. Their next question was spoken from the deep insecurities that haunt us all: “Was it something that I did?” I told them they were fine workers, and they were. Their only offense was earning a salary the company could no longer afford to pay.
Now, as I sat in my boss’s house, I was being told that my salary was needed to fuel the company engine. The salary I used to pay bills was needed to pay company bills, to pay other salaries, to pay my boss’s salary. Part of my job would be dissolved and parts assimilated into other people’s jobs. If they were lucky, the survivors would even be given part of my salary to compensate for the additional work. As Vice President of the company, I understood the economics of the situation. As a person, however, I felt betrayed.
Pasting in Word 2010
When moving content from one file to another, using “copy/paste” is a quick, easy solution. Sometimes, however, formatting and styles coming from one file end up corrupting or messing up the formatting of the file you’re currently working on. This is often referred to as a “formatting blowout.”
One thing you may not be aware of is that formatting and other coding is stored within the paragraph markers that appear at the end of each paragraph or figure. You can find these markers by turning them on. This button can be found on the Home tab under Paragraph in the ribbon:
There are several “paste” options in Word 2010; being familiar with what they are can save you time and headaches.
Paste options include:
- Use Destination Styles. This option takes the content you have, and adds the current styles and formatting already in the document. This enables the correct spacing, fonts, etc. to be consistent.
- Keep Source Formatting. This retains the original copied text, including any formatting, font, or styles attached. This option, if it doesn’t match the existing document, can cause spacing or formatting issues if you’re not careful.
- Merge Formatting. This merges your copied content with the current document format. Again, this can cause issues if you have complicated formatting in either file.
- Keep Text Only. This is akin to pasting into Notepad or a similar program. Ideally, it pastes only the words from what you copied, removing any hyperlinks or graphics that may be attached.
One of the most prevailing activities that can contribute to Office NPT™ involves pasting procedural steps and figures from one document to another. To reduce Office NPT™, we recommend pasting text and figures separately:
- To paste text or procedural steps, the option that you should make your first choice is option #4 – Keep Text Only. This option can also be accessed by clicking the drop-down under the paste button, selecting “Paste Special,” and then selecting “Unformatted Text.” (This option is also available in other versions of MS Word). This option allows text to be pasted in with any and all formatting removed. Once the text has been pasted in to your document, use your current styles or the format painter to format it as needed.
- To best paste figures or photos, click the drop-down under the paste button, select “Paste Special,” and then select “Picture (Enhanced Metafile).” Choosing this option allows figures to be pasted in while keeping file size small.
- After choosing this option, check the quality of your figure or photo. For some figures, this option may not always work, and a simple Paste may have to be used.
There is one other handy feature in Word 2010 that allows you to preview how your content will look after being pasted into your document depending on which paste option you select. Once you’ve copied content, go to your current working file, and place your cursor where you want the content pasted in. Click the drop-down under the Paste button. Preview each paste option by holding your mouse cursor over the paste buttons.
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Is your Table of Contents wrong? Still manually typing in your TOC?
A Table of Contents (TOC) helps to quickly show the organization of a document. It’s even more useful when it also provides links, or bookmarks, to the different sections of the document so that users can quickly jump to a specific section they’re interested in.
In the past, a Table of Contents had to be typed manually. This was especially painful and time-consuming for long documents. Thankfully, we currently have the option of inserting a Table of Contents. An “automatic” Table of Contents, i.e., one that is inserted as a Field that can be updated, is automatically assembled based on “styles” in the document. For example, anything styled as Heading 1 will show up as a Level 1 heading in the Table of Contents; anything styled as Heading 2 will show up as a Level 2 heading, etc. If you’re using custom styles or need three or even four levels of headings to show up in the Table of Contents, don’t worry; we can accommodate! The Tips and Tricks below will reveal the steps to take to get your Table of Contents built and updating automatically at the click of a mouse!
If your document currently has a Table of Contents, but it is inaccurate, let’s first make sure your Table of Contents isn’t already set to automatically update once prompted by you. We’ll check this by making sure that you have Field Shading turned on.
1. Go to File > Options > Advanced, and scroll down to the section titled, “Show document content.” Make sure “Field shading:” is set to Always.
2. Now that we’ve adjusted that setting, go back and take another look at your Table of Contents. Is it shaded grey?
a. If not, it has been manually typed in. Proceed to Section 1 of the Tricks section of this article.
b. If it is shaded grey, it may just need to be updated. Continue to Step 3 below.
3. Right-click anywhere on the Table of Contents and select “Update Field.”
4. When prompted, select “Update entire table” to update the section titles and numbers AND the page numbers:
a. If that didn’t correct your Table of Contents, you may need to start fresh. Proceed to Section 1 in the Tricks section of this article.
b. If that fixed your Table of Contents, but you see a lot of extra content pulled in, such as figures or paragraphs, proceed to Section 2a. in the Tricks section of this article.
If your document does not have a Table of Contents and you want to include one, proceed to Section 1 in the Tricks section of this article.
1. How to insert / build a Table of Contents:
a. Place your cursor on the page where you want to insert the Table of Contents.
b. Click the References tab, click the drop-down on the Table of Contents button, and then select “Insert Table of Contents.”
c. Make sure the boxes are checked where it says, “Show page numbers” and “Right align page numbers.” Uncheck the box that says, “Use hyperlinks instead of page numbers” unless that is something you want.
d. Select how many levels you want to see where it says, “Show levels.” If you want to see Section 1, Section 1.1, and Section 1.1.1, for example, set it to show 3 levels.
e. Click Ok.
2. Modifying a Table of Contents:
a. If you see a lot of extra content pulled in, such as figures or paragraphs:
i. Since the Table of Contents is assembled based on styles, you will have to locate the extra items being pulled in to the Table of Contents and revise the style.
• For example, if a photo or other figure was pulled into your Table of Contents, select that image and review the style formatting. The style of the photo or figure may likely be Heading 1 or Heading 2, etc.
ii. To revise the style, select the figure or click on the extra content appearing in your Table of Contents where it exists in the body of your document (not where it is appearing in the Table of Contents). On the Home tab, look at the style ribbon and check to see what style is being used.
iii. Reformat the content to something other than a style used to build the Table of Contents, or clear the formatting using this button on the Home tab in the Font section:
b. If you need to modify which styles to include in the Table of Contents and specify which heading level they should appear as:
i. Select the entire Table of Contents.
ii. On the References tab, click the drop-down on the Table of Contents button, and select “Insert Table of Contents” (See Figure 4).
iii. Make sure the boxes are checked where it says, “Show page numbers” and “Right align page numbers.” Uncheck the box that says, “Use hyperlinks instead of page numbers” unless that is something you want (See Figure 5).
iv. Click the Options button (See Figure 5).
v. Scroll down through the list and add TOC Level numbers next to the styles you want the Table of Contents to include.
• Typically, Heading Level 1 is marked as a 1, Heading Level 2 is marked as a 2, and Heading Level 3 can be included by inserting a 3 in the box, etc.
• The TOC Level numbers indicate the level that each style will appear as in the Table of Contents. Any style given a TOC Level of 1 will appear as a major section heading indicated by the blue-colored text below. Any style given a TOC Level of 2 will appear as a subheading, indicated by the black text below, and so on.
c. If you want to modify the formatting of the heading levels in the Table of Contents:
i. After clicking “Insert Table of Contents,” click the Modify button (see Figure 5).
ii. Select TOC 1 (or TOC 2, etc.), which corresponds to Table of Contents Heading Level 1, and click Modify.
iii. From this screen you can modify the font, font size and color, paragraph spacing, tab spacing, etc. of that heading level.
iv. Click Ok to confirm and close each options box.
v. When prompted with “Do you want to replace the selected table of contents?”, click OK.
You should now have a shiny new Table of Contents. Don’t worry about the grey shading; it won’t show up when you print the document. To update the Table of Contents at any time, right-click anywhere on the Table of Contents and select “Update Field.” Then select “Update Entire Table.”
Did you realize that so much could go into simply adding a Table of Contents or making it work properly? If the steps in this article seem overwhelming or make your eyes glaze over after Step 1, consider hiring a Wilson & Associates Technical Editor, and let us take this and many other issues off your plate. After that, all you’ll have to do is say the popular phrase, “work your magic,” and let your Wilson & Associates Technical Editor fix it!
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