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Communication: The Challenge Everybody talks about communication and its importance. From leaders such as Jack Welch of GE (in "Control Your Own Destiney): "Real communication takes countless hours of eyeball to eyeball, back and forth. It means listening more than talking .... It is human beings coming to see and accept things through a constant interactive process." To August Busch III of Anheuser-Busch (when asked by strategist Gary Hamel about the "one or two most important things you can do as a corporate leader to ensure that new, innovative strategies emerge in your organization."): "You're going to laugh at this -- it sounds so simple -- but the key is to communicate, communicate, communicate at every level in the organization, and to start at the lowest level." To all of us Janes and Joes like this manager at the U.S. Customs Service: "I'm dealing with eight or nine major change efforts right now. Communication is intertwined with all of them. None of them will succeed without effective communication." Yet all of us view communication differently. Almost all of you (91 percent of all communicators) define your roles as messengers in the pipeline -- the ability to get those change announcements and newsletters out with skillfully managed messages, videos produced, management to show up at town meetings saying the right things. I'm sorry, but what we need is beyond context. "Hello? Is anybody listening? Enough with the 'why we're changing' crap," was one of my responses during a study interview. "I want solid information I can use to make real decisions. Not just 'context setting.'" Context is nice, and if done well, greatly helps us understand the changing world around us. But mostly (over 80 percent) what we're looking for is clear, effective, useful, day-to-day information and sense-making. Think of the majority of our communication needs as organizing and delivering what we need to make 24-hour to 90-day decisions. Far too much "key message" communication is out there. If the communication isn't tied to a specific decision we need to make, we'll just hit our mental "delete" button. How many things do you have to do today? Gazillions, right? If the communication isn't linked to a timebound decision, we'll file it until you re-communicate. The need for a day-to-day information approach is becoming dire. As you read this paper, the amount of information inside your company (and ours) is increasing 2 percent per month. That means every 1,100 days, because there will be twice as much info, every Jane and Joe's ability to transform information into work becomes twice as important, twice as complicated, twice as critical. Unfortunately, you are also bound to context stuff by how our leaders define communication. Only 9 percent believe it's delivering, adapting and using local work area, performance-based information. That's management- not communication! This lack of connection to real work often leaves leaders with the challenge "that they must communicate a million complicated things when they've failed to communicate a few simple, profound ones," says Boyd Clarke, CEO of the Tom P

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