The True Cost of Poor Communication

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What is the true cost of poor communication? A few hours worth of extra work? Money down the drain? How effectively we relay information is more important to the success of our endeavors than you might think. Just take a page from NASA’s book:

In 1999, a $125 million Mars orbiter was sent into space and promptly lost forever. The reason for this colossal financial waste? Of the two engineering teams assigned to the project, one conducted navigational software calculations in the English system of measurement, while the other used the NASA-standard Metric system. Failure to communicate and address this discrepancy resulted in the orbiter wavering from its intended trajectory before eventually burning up in the atmosphere of Mars.

Yes, you read that correctly: $125 million dollars and months of preparation all down the drain in the blink of an eye (or more accurately, the combustion of an orbiter). While this story is definitely on the extreme end of the spectrum for collaborations gone awry, it does an excellent job of illustrating just how big of an impact one little lull in communication can have. Even with all of the advancements in technology, these lulls are just as prevalent today as they were fifteen years ago. A recent report from the Project Management Institute relayed the following information:

  • Poor communication is the cause of one third of project failures
  • It puts $135 million at risk for every $1 billion invested in a project
  • Companies with effective communication practices are 1.7x more likely to outperform their competitors when it comes to making money

The bottom line: Poor communication is expensive.

So what are businesses doing wrong? How can we step up our communication game to make sure our wallets (and egos) don’t take a beating? Let’s have a look:

Overdependence on Email

Yes, it is an amazing tool that allows us to send messages from one country to another in mere seconds. But therein lies the problem. Because so many people now rely on email as their main method of communication, inboxes are being flooded, messages are being automatically marked as spam, and important communication is inevitably slipping through the digital cracks.

Resistance to Change

If your trusty fax machine still bears the brunt of your daily messaging, it may be time to explore other options. Consider the easiest way to get in touch with your clients and what makes the most sense for your industry. Texting, for example, is becoming more and more prevalent as a quick and easy form of messaging that doesn’t rely on an internet connection to work.

Not Following (or Having) Best Practices

During our latest service excellence meeting, we discovered that interoffice communication was one of our biggest challenges. The reason? We had recently expanded the team, and between these new employees and adopting a new collaborative workspace, no one was quite sure which form of communication was best for getting in touch with one another. Simply updating our communication guidelines and establishing a regular review of them has helped us significantly in eliminating this problem.

Do any of these points sound familiar? Have a few to add to the list? Let us know in the comments!