Why Understand a Communication Model?
Good communication skills are essential for project managers.
Using a simple model or
definition of communication as your starting point can help you communicate more effectively.
Using a communication model can help you in two ways...
A communication model will help you prepare your communications so that
they have a better chance of being received, understood as intended, and then acted upon by the receiver
Fixing Communication Problems
A communication model will provide you with a framework that you
can use to figure out where communication breakdowns are happening and help you determine what steps are needed to
A Practical Communication Model
A Practical Definition of Communication
The act of transferring information from one person to another for some desired effect.
Aristotle is thought to have developed the first model of communication. This model is a direct match with
the above definition. It consisted of three parts: the Sender, the Message, and the Receiver.
Aristotle's Communication Model
Since Aristotle's time, more communication models have been developed. The communication model below
incorporates elements from several of these other models.
As with Aristotle's model, you have a Sender, a Message, and a Receiver. But a few more elements are needed to make
it useful for us as Project Managers. Here are all of the elements and their role in the model.
A Communication Model for Project Managers
The Sender has information that he wants to share with someone else, usually for some intended purpose. The Sender
is responsible for "encoding" the information into a message and then transmitting it.
Encoding the information usually entails putting his thoughts into words and then transmitting those words by
speaking them, typing them into an email and sending it, and so on. But it could also involve non-verbal communication.
The Receiver is the intended target of the message sent by the Sender. The Receiver is responsible for "decoding"
the message and interpreting it.
It's important to be aware of the Receiver's environment. For example, what are their experiences, language capabilities, and
goals? If the Receiver is one of your project stakeholders, make sure to include them in your Stakeholder
The Message is the encoded information the Sender wants to share with the Receiver.
The Channel is the communication medium the Sender uses to transmit the message to the Receiver. Some examples of
the different types of communication medium are...
- Face-to-face communication
- Video conferencing
The Feedback Loop
The Feedback Loop is how the Sender interprets the Receivers response to his message. Did the message have the
desired effect on the Receiver?
Noise refers to any interference to the message traveling along the Channel or in the decoding and interpretation by
the Receiver. For example, if communicating via mobile phone and the line isn't clear, your intended message may not be
received correctly. Another example is if you send a message in English to a non-native English speaker, an uncommon
word or phrase may get interpreted incorrectly.
Using the Communication Model in Project Management
Now that you understand the different elements of this Communication Model, let's take a look at how you can
use it to communicate more effectively.
When planning your communications, use the model as a guide.
- Determine the purpose of your communication. Do you expect some specific action from the Receiver?
- Choose an appropriate Channel for sending your message. Email may be appropriate for certain communications
whereas face-to-face is better in other situations.
- Using the Feedback Loop, make sure your message was received, interpreted, and acted upon as intended.
The communication model is especially useful for diagnosing communication problems. For example...
- If the Receiver didn't receive your message, check to see what Noise could have interrupted the transmission of the
- If the Receiver didn't interpret or understand your message correctly, check to see how you encoded it. Maybe you
used jargon not fully understood by the Receiver, or maybe you just need to improve your writing or speaking.
Using this practical definition of communication along with a communication model can help you
develop effective business communication skills.