Communication and Media Richness Assurance in High-performance Projects

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As Jacobsen and Thorsvik put it, "organisations are selective in their search for information and shield themselves against different types of information".<ref name="THOR"/>  
As Jacobsen and Thorsvik put it, "organisations are selective in their search for information and shield themselves against different types of information".<ref name="THOR"/>  
Statistics: probability of choosing the right communication tool at the right time
Proficiency => Heightened awareness => richer access to resources
Conforming to accepted cultural norms, rules and regulations minimises risk of barriers imposed on and obstructing or hindering communication.
==Information Media==
==Information Media==

Revision as of 18:22, 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?" [1]

Human Nature

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.

Organisational Psychology

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 [2] which would have never been possible without cooperation through communication. (picture of Colosseum)

As with individual human psychological evolution, the psychology employed in traditional organisations evolved over time into a higher-complexity field as seen in modern organisations. Evolution in technology, human and material resources, infrastructure and health collectively caused an explosion in size and resolution of the overall decision-making landscape. There are now many times more key decision-makers in each organisation and an astronomical amount of organisation-level decisions made daily across the global business community. The refined effect of this on psychological factors is that decision-makers have access to an overwhelming amount of information and communication options yet continue to have the same mere five basic human senses. A way that modern organisations deal with this severely infavourable interface misalignment is to employ processes, policies and communication protocols to continually aid decision-making mechanisms. This places emphasis on organisation stakeholders to learn and appropriately interact with the organisational framework, but in return offers reduced levels of uncertainty achieved through somewhat guided focus. As Jacobsen and Thorsvik put it, "organisations are selective in their search for information and shield themselves against different types of information".[3]

Information Media

outline of each of the key 5-10 methods of communicating comparison/contrasting of advantages/weaknesses. securing consistently lossless or low-loss communication is key to achieving a success.

High fidelity

Face-to-face interaction, video conferencing

Medium fidelity

Telephone call, internet chat, email correspondence

Low fidelity

Text message, letter, publications (article, report, book,...)

Case Studies

Dubai Aquarium

2010 flooring of Dubai Mall: critically located and deadly risky structure = Poor design!

Herlev Hospital

Top x (7?) floors left unfinished for period: finances not enough to finish entire building!

Burj Khalifa

on time? on budget? fully functional/operational as intended?

Project-specific Characteristics

1) Human nature: Human beings have the inherent abilities of communicating and cooperating with each other. This section gives basic biological and psychological understanding and provides historic information on how communication has helped humans through history to achieve various results.

2) Information media: (incl. face-to-face conversation, video conferencing, telephone call, internet chat, email, text messaging), and

3) Case studies: A comparison/contrast between three similar real-life projects, where outcomes in terms of project success could be classed respectively as poor, OK and good.

4) Project-specific Characteristics - all projects are different, and have different challenges and opportunities. Situation-based opportunities and challenges: A look at which factors to a given degree could either boost or compromise project proceedings. This list could be endless, so the most appropriate few will be selected later as the article starts to take shape.

Annotated Bibliography

Richard L. Daft, Robert H. Lengel (1983). Information Richness: A New Approach to Managerial Behavior and Organization Design.[1] The journal focuses on how organisations design their communication in order to best utilise the strengths of the different media.

Dag Ingvar Jacobsen, Jan Thorsvik (2014). Hvordan Organisationer Fungerer. Copenhagen: Hans Reitzels Forlag.[3] The book contains different perspectives on management and organisation, sub-divided into eleven chapters. The chapter 'Communication in organisations' relates particularly closely to the topic of this article.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Richard L. Daft, Robert H. Lengel (1983). Information Richness: A New Approach to Managerial Behavior and Organization Design. Texas: Department of Management, Texas A&M University, [Online], p.1 Available at: [First accessed 20 February 2019]
  2. Melvin Kranzberg, Michael T. Hannan (1999). History of the organization of work, [Online], p.3 Available at: [First accessed 22 February 2019]
  3. 3.0 3.1 Dag Ingvar Jacobsen, Jan Thorsvik (2014). Hvordan Organisationer Fungerer. Copenhagen: Hans Reitzels Forlag, p.314 [First accessed 22 February 2019]
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