The Medium is the Message
… so said Marshall McLuhan way back in 1964. McLuhan, an academician, was the guru of mass media. He meant to say that the medium of communication embeds itself into the message which you communicate. You cannot really separate the message and the medium. McLuhan’s reference was to the then popular television medium. But I am sure if McLuhan were around today, he would say the same of project communications management too. Surely, the medium influences project communications.
So here is an attempt to explore the “embedded message” in some of the media.
Email. Email brings credibility to the communication. By and large, email is taken seriously. (Those, who used to share jokes on email, have now moved to What’s App!) I know, I need to respond to email because someone would be depending on it. Response to email has some kind of finality as it cannot be taken back. More so, as an email creates a record of complete trail, by default.
Email would be the last choice for expressing emotions like affection, anger, anxiety etc.
Instant messaging was expected to obviate emails. That did not happen. IM draws your attention to something that is urgent (more often than not “I’m running late for the meeting”!). Sometime you are expected to revert with a decision (“Yes” or “No”).
Communication on IM can be patchy and incomplete. Normally you won’t use IM for substantial project communications.
Social media, for example, LinkedIn is amenable to professional discussions related to specific topics. I would also include web based publications here. These are a vast storehouse of knowledge, experience and wisdom, available almost at no cost. Non-professional discussions like politics get booed out on social media. For informed conversations around a topic, social media is just too good.
What’s app is perhaps a combination of both instant messaging and social media. Its primary use is to communicate personal information including strong opinions. Important and serious project communications could get crowded out. What’s app does not have the same rigour as email. It is easy to lose a trail making the latest message, the greatest message. What’s app can help the project team to get to know each other faster, expediting the forming stage (the first stage of Tuckman stages in teaming).
Presentations whether face to face or virtual are good for getting all the concerned stakeholders in one single place. Presentation is serious business talk. Some repartee may be acceptable, but it is otherwise serious business. If I am the presenter I need to be doubly sure of what I am presenting. I need to anticipate questions. I may not be allowed to get very creative as there could be mandatory templates to follow. If I am an audience, I need to listen carefully. Who knows some action item may get assigned to me.
Presentations run the risk of turning into rituals.
Stand-up meetings imply a sense of impatience. There is no time for rumination, long stories not even sitting down. Let us discuss and decide and get back to work. We have no time to waste on mandatory rituals.
You would leave sticky notes containing a brief message sometimes. Stickiness can be colourful. They look personal since they are handwritten. Sticky notes give a hint of an emotion because they indicate you took the extra trip to meet the receiver.
How can a discussion on media be complete without talking about the good ol’phone? When you use a phone for communication it may imply urgency which justifies the phone interruption. Calling someone also implies that you respect the recipient’s opinion and therefore seek advice or just inform.
Would you agree now with Marshal McLuhan? Eager to know. Learn more at Manipal ProLearn.
About the Author
Mukund Toro is an independent Project Management Consultant who has worked with more than 1000 project managers. His 20+ years’ industry experience in software and telecommunication includes working in various capacities from project manager to director across multinationals, product and service companies and government research organisations.