Communication and Media Richness Assurance in High-performance Projects
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Organisations formed by coalitions of human beings have existed for several thousand years, yielding tremendous benefits on a grand scale. For example, the ancient Greek and Romans erected monumental structures<ref name="STRUCT"> which would have never been possible without cooperation through communication.
Organisations formed by coalitions of human beings have existed for several thousand years, yielding tremendous benefits on a grand scale. For example, the ancient Greek and Romans erected monumental structures <ref name="STRUCT"> which would have never been possible without cooperation through communication.
Revision as of 13:18, 22 February 2019
In Communication, the term media richness (or information richness) refers to the amount of information a medium is capable of transmitting per given time unit.
With a plethora of available communication tools and often high degrees of freedom in their timing, choosing the right tool at the right time is non-trivial. Depending on the choice of tools and timing, results will vary from excellent through acceptable to undesired. However, as no universally successful recipe exists for ensuring positive outcomes, having a good understanding of the various communication options and their attributes will increase chances of making rational decisions accumulated and translating in turn into complex, fit-for-purpose solutions.
This article seeks to help project practitioners gain awareness of different communication tools and timing from a multi-disciplinary perspective. Disciplines covered are human nature, psychology, mathematics, linguistics and culture, with use of case studies and best practice. The diverse angles on the topic come together to bring a unified, in-depth understanding of media richness assurance aiding practitioners to achieve better results in their practical application in project implementations.
A key concept discussed in the article is Media Richness Theory (MRT), or Information Richness Theory. MRT describes how various communication media, such as face-to-face interaction and email correspondence, have different characteristics in terms of their information capacity and transfer rate, notable advantages and disadvantages and situation-based use cases.
Based on MRT, three case studies will be discussed to analyse chosen tools and methods in relation to project outcomes. Conclusions from the case studies will guide the final article recommendations.
Organisations rely on communication to successfully complete tasks (typically organised in projects) and fulfil purposes. Since success is typically measured on a linear scale, any overall project success could be considered the sum of a series of intermediary successes. Project purpose fulfilment thus quite simply relies on good stakeholder communication on a continuous basis throughout the entire project lifecycle.
What separates standard projects from high-performing projects is that in the latter communication effectiveness becomes vital not only regarding accuracy but also for speed. In other words, communication needs to happen both precisely and quickly, allowing superb utilisation of project resources to create outstanding project results.
Given the critical role of communication in high-performance projects, the question is ‘how does one go about designing and executing this complex project system of communication?’. As Daft and Lengel universally put it, "How do organizations perform this miracle?" 
To truly understand later developments and higher-abstraction processes and terminology, one must journey back to the basics at the source and core meanings of the topic: Human beings are born with five senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. These senses are designed not only for survival (securing life necessities) but also to enable us to communicate with our surroundings to yield better results in numerous respects. In essence, our choice of senses can be considered a toolbox that we make use of in various ways in order to carry out tasks and fulfil purposes. The way in which we relate to and make use of this toolbox sees us entering the domain of psychology: from a number of available options we make a given decision that employs one or more senses and then subsequently take appropriate action. These thought processes started out in history among primates as survival-prioritised ('there is food straight ahead, so I will move in that direction in order to get and eat it'), but have through time evolved substantially to highly complex, human decision-making patterns ('there is food straight ahead, but information tells me there is better food a little further on, so I will go there instead to eat). As evident in both scenarios, human biology is coupled with psychology through decision-making. In the latter, however, richer communication is present resulting in greater overall benefit.
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- ↑ Melvin Kranzberg, Michael T. Hannan (1999). History of the organization of work, [Online], p.3 Available at: https://www.britannica.com/topic/history-of-work-organization-648000/Social-classes [Accessed 22 February 2019]
Project Management standards / best practice PMI Projects book, Prince2 book Misc. Misc.