Ashghal Company Project Plan

Problem Description

The fundamental aim of this project plan is to identify major communication challenges and their substantial implications for the well-being of Ashghal Company, which affect the company’s system. Greater research and development are needed to enable the necessary advancement of the company’s management and marketing strategies to address these challenges. These challenges are broad with each affecting specific area of the company’s organizational structure.

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Communication is a complex process consisting of interconnected steps, each of which is significant to making an individual’s views clear to another person. The aim of every manager is to make the communication process as efficient as possible and thus, avoid failing to deliver the meaning of the message.

According to experiments conducted in 1975, leaders spend from 50% to 90% of the time on communication (Watzlawick, Bavelas, & Jackson, 2011). The leader engages in a communication process to realize his/her roles in relation to employees. This process includes information exchange decision-making processes, planning, organization, motivation, and control. Exchange of information is built into all major types of management and thus, communication is a very important process because it connects everyone and everything.

Ashghal’s mission is to deliver and manage ultramodern and sustainable world-class buildings and infrastructure, which are in line with the Qatar National Vision 2030 (Public Works Authority, 2016). The company’s objectives include leveraging new technologies, minimizing non-core activities, and having streamlined business processes ready to change, create, and sustain value. Ashghal’s strategy is based on three aspects.

  1. The first aspect refers to the outsourcing and delivery directed by world-class buildings and infrastructure.
  2. The second aspect deals with the customer focus implying maintenance of customers’ attention and their retention through consistent, satisfactory, and accessible customer experience.
  3. Last but not the least, the company operates based on its responsiveness and dynamism.

Ashghal Company aims at achieving the status of an organization that provides a positive learning environment for its empowered, proactive, and passionate workers.

Public Works Authority’s (Ashghal’s) primary stakeholders are Qatar’s Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Municipalities and Urban Planning, Qatar Electricity and Water Corporation, and the Ministry of Interior.

Problem Statement

The target audience of the research is the Ashghal Company, its Public Relations and Communication department, in particular. The primary concern of the Department of Public Relations and Communication relates to marketing issues, public relations, media, publication, advertising, and web support of the company’s departments, processes, and programs. Moreover, it is the primary concern of the Public Relations and Communication Department to deal with the external public, communication strategies, and interpretation of the authority’s missions.

The Public Relations and Communication department is the first component of the organizational structure that is responsible for causing and solving communication problems. Moreover, as well as any other component of an organization, the department is affected by communication problems. Nevertheless, it is in charge of developing successful communication strategies whereby every member of an organization is responsible for following their rules and recommendations.

The research will identify the main components of effective communication and analyze the factors that cause communication problems. As a result, the company will be able to analyze its communication policy, communication knowledge and behavior, and eliminate the problem. A survey will be conducted to evaluate the current communication strategies of the company. The target audience of the survey is 50 workers from different departments, organizational levels, and social ladders. In order to avoid any prejudice and possible negative consequences for the company’s employees, the survey will be anonymous.

Additionally, short interviews will be conducted with every participant to ensure the credibility of the given information. After the survey, findings will be analyzed and shared with the company’s representatives. The research will investigate communication gaps identified by the organization’s employees and provide an alternative course of action the company can apply.

Research Aim

Given the project plan aims at achieving the following goals:

  1. Find out the reasons for the company's ineffective communication with the public.
  2. Analyze the company’s financial support.
  3. Offer an alternative course of action the company can follow to improve its communication with the public.
  4. Conduct a survey to find out public opinion about the problem.

The team will have a particular number of questionnaire samples to promote within a particular time period.

Research Questions

RQ1: What are the reasons for the company’s bad communication with the public?

H1: The lack of communication knowledge is the main reason for the company’s bad communication with the public.

RQ2: Does bad communication have any consequences on the company’s reputation?

H1: Bad communication significantly decreases the company’s reputation and cause a crisis.

RQ3: Is communication important for a successful operation of the company?

H3: Communication is one of the most important prerequisites of a company’s success.

Research Design

The research will employ a combination of several research designs aimed at answering and analyzing the research questions. Mainly, the research will use the survey, interviews, case study, and literature review. In order to answer the first research question, a questionnaire will be offered to the employees of Ashghal Company to answer the questions concerning possible reasons for communication failure and drawbacks of the company’s communication strategy. Moreover, in order to explore the factors that cause bad communication, the research will review literature and case studies.

During a short interview, the respondents will be offered a case for which they will have to invent an effective communication strategy. The second and third research questions will be answered with the help of the questionnaire, which will ask the participants to depict in one or in a few words why they consider communication influences/ does not influence the company’s reputation, efficient functioning, and prosperity.

Conceptual Model

This study aims at examining the theoretical framework of the factors that influence Ashghal Company's communication with the public. The study will determine the main features that provoke bad communication consequences. The framework of the study focuses on the determinative factors of communication strategies executed by the company’s management and marketing teams. Given research considers the following conceptual models to explain the company’s ineffective communication strategy with the public.

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Data Collection Methods and Techniques

To explore the factors that enhance effective communication and cause bad communication, opinion poll method will be employed in a given research. The project team will develop a list of questions with the company’s representatives. As a result, the project team will design a self-structured questionnaire comprising of two parts. In the first part, respondents will provide personal data including their marital status, age, gender, income level (measured by a nominal scale), and educational level. Participants will not provide their names in order to make the survey anonymous. Anonymous survey aims to obtain objective information eliminating any possible risks of being fired or getting a penalty for an “incorrect’ response.

The second part of the questionnaire will inquire about relevant variables like effective/ineffective communication, the company’s success, and reputation. The second section will comprise multiple-choice questions and questions needed to be answered in one or a couple of words. Moreover, in order to ensure the information provided is credible, the project members will conduct short interviews during which the respondents will be offered to develop a small communication strategy that will be, in their point of view, substantially effective for the company.

The research will employ a stratified non-probability sampling technique. Questionnaires will be distributed equally among 50 individuals working (of different age, gender, marital status, and education level) at the different departments of Ashghal Company. Stratified sampling will ensure that the survey considers the workers of every department to estimate the structure of the whole organization because the communication problems appearing in one department may never appear in another department. Therefore, to eliminate the risk of missing significant aspects of communication issues, the survey will aim at the analysis of the whole organization.

Data Analysis Method

To illustrate the influence of bad communication on the company’s reputation and its successful functioning, the research will apply the Pearson correlation and multiple regression analysis. Moreover, the study will utilize statistical and situational analyses. These methods will help analyze the relationships between variables and find out the main reasons of problem occurrence. To check the inclination of the participants, the study will calculate the mean and standard variation using descriptive statistics.

Schedule, Organization, Budget

The project will be completed within a period of 12 weeks (55 working days) starting from the time Ashghal’s Public Relations and Communication personnel provide the necessary information to the project team. The cost of the project is estimated not to exceed $10,000. The estimated start date of the study is May 2, 2016, ending on July 15, 2016.

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Literature Review

Although it is generally acknowledged that communication is essential for the success of an organization, the survey showed that 73% of American, 63% of British and 85% of Japanese managers believe that communication is the main obstacle to achieving efficiency at their organizations (Watzlawick et al., 2011). According to another survey of about 250 thousand workers from 2000 diverse companies, the exchange of information is one of the most complex problems (Watzlawick et al., 2011).

These surveys show that ineffective communication is one of the main problems. Aware of communication at individual and organizational levels, managers must learn to reduce the incidence of ineffective communication and thus, become more effective workers (Cooren, Kuhn, Cornelissen, & Clark, 2011). Great leaders are able to communicate effectively. They facilitate the communication process having good oral and written communication skills and understanding the influence of the environment on the exchange of information (Cooren et al., 2011).

Considering the exchange of information within an organization, people usually think of workers who speak during personal or group communication, talk on the phone or read and make notes, letters, and reports (Johansson, Miller, & Hamrin, 2014). Nevertheless, communication is a more extensive and complicated process (Johansson et al., 2014).

The communicative process is the exchange of information between two or more people. The main purpose of the communicative process is to provide an understanding of the information that is exchanged (messages) (Kim, 2011). However, exchange of the information does not guarantee the efficiency of its transmission. Therefore, it is significant to understand the stages of the communication process (Kim, 2011).

Communication is the process of transferring information from one person to another. Effective communication implies that the transmitted message is as close in value to the original as possible (Marques, 2010). The key component of effective communication is the data presented in the form or forms that have a meaningful capacity (Marques, 2010). The information is valuable if it is accurate, timely, complete, and appropriate (Marques, 2010).

The communicative process starts when one person (sender) wants to convey a fact, idea, opinion, or other information to someone else (the recipient) (Sardana & Hothi, 2011). This information is important for the sender regardless of whether it is simple and concrete or complex and abstract. The next action is the coding of information in a form that corresponds to the situation (Sardana & Hothi, 2011). An encoded message may be in the form of words, facial expressions, gestures, or even artistic expression and physical activities (Sardana & Hothi, 2011).

Once the message is encoded, it is passed through appropriate means of communication (channels) (Kim, 2011). Conventional means of communication in organizations include meetings, emails, memos, letters, reports, and phone calls. Then, the message is decoded into a form that has some meaning for the recipient. The value of information can be different and in many cases, it is the basis for a response (Cooren et al., 2011). Then, a cycle appears as a new message is transmitted in the same sequence to the original sender. Thus, the exchange of information includes four basic elements (Cooren et al., 2011):

  1. Sender - a person, who generates ideas or gathers information and sends it.
  2. Message - the actual information encoded with the help of symbols.
  3. Channel - the means of transmitting the information.
  4. Beneficiary - a person or persons to whom the information is addressed and who interpret it.
 

Moreover, communication can be interrupted by an obstacle – noise or people talking nearby (Griffin, 2011). Obstacles also include a letter lost at the post office, a phone line damage, or an incorrect e-mail address (Griffin, 2011).

Organizations use a wide variety of means of communication with both external and internal environments. Managers must always have direct contact and feedback with the employees of the lower levels and consequently, with all employees at an organization (Griffin, 2011). For example, a company that has trade unions should maintain ties with the legitimate representatives of employed individuals. If trade unions are absent, a company can communicate directly with its workers to prevent their creation (Griffin, 2011). This is just one example of the factors to which an organization must respond through communication.

The communication scheme is a means by which members of a group or team communicate with each other (Kim, 2011). They differ by the streams of information, leadership positions, and urgency of different types of problems (Kim, 2011). Managers can try to create a centralized scheme whereby the tasks of the group are simple and routine. On the other hand, managers can promote decentralization if the group faces a difficult task (for example, the approval of the main decision on the enterprise strategy) because open channels of communication provide more interaction and rather efficient distribution of information (Cooren et al., 2011).

Generally, there are vertical and horizontal communication ties in organizations (Griffin, 2011). Vertical communication takes place along the hierarchical structure of an organization (Griffin, 2011). These communications involve managers, supervisors, and subordinates. Vertical communication can and should be bi-directional (directed from the top to the bottom and vice versa) because it is more effective than unidirectional (Kim, 2011). Horizontal communication occurs between the colleagues and employees at the same level. They promote coordination between subordinates and play a major role in working teams, which involve employees of different departments (Cooren et al., 2011).

In the vertical structure, information moves from level to level within an organization (Griffin, 2011). It can be transmitted from higher to lower levels. In this way, subordinate management is informed about current tasks, changing priorities, specific objectives, and recommended procedures (Kim, 2011). For example, the vice president of production may notify a plant manager about future changes in product manufacturing. In turn, the plant manager must inform the subordinate leaders about the peculiarities of changes that will occur.

In addition to the descending exchange of information, an organization needs rising communications (Cooren et al., 2011). For example, an employee of the bank can notice those client computers sometimes make the customer wait a few minutes longer than before because the machine is periodically "busy" or turned off. Employees can conclude that expectations make some customers nervous and anxious. One may suppose that a bank effectively informed all employees that customer service is their primary concern. In this case, employees are willing to tell their supervisors about the problem that has occurred. The leader, in turn, must inform the head of operations, who will inform the vice president of banking operations.

Transmission of information from lower to higher levels can significantly influence organizational performance (Marques, 2010). Any change requires the approval of the higher-level manager. Therefore, one can observe the situation when a certain idea that emerges at lower levels of an organization reaches the top consistently passing all mediatory levels of management (Marques, 2010). This example illustrates the exchange of information that aims at increasing the competitiveness of an organization by increasing its productivity (Marques, 2010).

Additionally, higher-level management may decide to reject new ideas. Assuming that the idea is valuable, the message will actually inform the employee, who suggested it, that an organization does not encourage him/her to seek innovation (Kim, 2011). As a result, an organization can lose serious opportunities for increasing its productivity and savings.

The most visible component of communication in the organization is the relationship between a manager and his/her subordinates (Griffin, 2011). These relationships are a part of the horizontal scheme, but they are often isolated because they make up a large part of the manager’s communication activity. Experiments have shown that 2/3 of communication is realized between those who lead and those who are led (Watzlawick et al., 2011). The scope of these communications covers a considerable number of issues including the delegation, setting of tasks, priorities, and expected results. Motivation and control are substantially realized through communication.

Additionally to ascending and descending ways of the information exchange, organizations require horizontal communications (Griffin, 2011). Almost all organizations consist of many departments and thus, the exchange of information between them is essential to the coordination of tasks and actions. Since an organization is a system of mutually connected elements, management should seek for the right people to operate and guide an organization in the desired direction (Kim, 2011).

For example, representatives of various departments and divisions of educational institutions periodically exchange information on issues such as schedule, guidelines, and practical recommendations (Griffin, 2011). In hospitals, the healthcare staff should exchange information related to the distribution of resources, coordination of individual departments, new treatments, and others (Griffin, 2011). In retail, regional leaders should meet periodically to discuss common problems, coordinate sales strategies, and exchange information on products (Griffin, 2011). Moreover, one can notice the development of special committees or working groups that meet periodically to discuss the issues related to their unit and collaboration with other similar working groups.

It is widely known that every organization consists of formal and informal components (Marques, 2010). The channel of informal communication can be called the channel of rumor distribution (Marques, 2010). Potential areas for spreading rumors include places of great crowding such as dining rooms, hallways, and coffee lounges. While the information spreads considerably faster through the “rumor” channels than through the formal channels of communication, leaders can use rumors deliberately for a planned leakage and spread of certain information (Smillie & Blissett, 2010).

Often rumors have a reputation for inaccurate information. However, according to the research, 80 to 99% of the rumors are true if the information relates to the company (Watzlawick et al., 2011). Nevertheless, there is no sense to pay attention to rumors about someone's private life or emotive information.

Electronic means of communication have a significant impact on communication in organizations. Information technologies imply the use of computers, computer networks, telephones, and other equipment. There are six most common types of information systems (Watzlawick et al., 2011):

  • Operational and executive system - perform routine and ongoing operations;
  • Management information system - collects data, organizes and classifies it in a form suitable for managers, and then provides these managers with the information necessary for their work;
  • Decision support system - automatically locates, operates and summarizes the information needed for specific solutions;
  • Administrative information system - designed for the special needs of processing information on behalf of top managers;
  • Intranet networks - communication networks that operate within the same organization;
  • Expert systems - created based on the definition of all possibilities "if-then" relating to the specific situation.

Recent advances in information technology can contribute to improving the exchange of information in organizations (Miritello, Moro, Lara, Martínez-López, Belchamber, Roberts, & Dunbar, 2013). The personal computer has made a great impact on the exchange of information between the managers, support staff, and employees.

Email allows employees to send written messages to any person at an organization (Miritello et al., 2013). This reduces traditionally inexhaustible stream of phone calls. Besides, e-mail is an effective means of communication between people working in different buildings, different cities, and even different states or countries.

A significant difference in favor of e-mail is the ability to send one message to a large number of recipients (Miritello et al., 2013). Moreover, many enterprises allow employees to use Internet platforms like ICQ, Skype, Viber, and WhatsApp as a relatively cheap and instantaneous means of communication (Miritello et al., 2013). Moreover, with the help of video conference people in different locations and even different countries have an opportunity to discuss various problems in person (Miritello et al., 2013).

Communication obstacles are divided between individual and organizational communication obstacles. The barriers influencing interpersonal communication include (Watzlawick et al., 2011):

  • obstacles caused by perception;
  • semantic barriers;
  • nonverbal barriers;
  • weak feedback;
  • inability to listen.

Obstacles influencing organizational communication include:

  • distortion of messages;
  • information overload;
  • the unsatisfactory structure of the organization.

Barriers caused by perception. People do not respond to what is actually happening in their environment. On the contrary, they respond to what is perceived as real. Paying attention to several factors that influence the perception in the process of information exchange can prevent decreased communication effectiveness in a timely manner by removing the barriers caused by perception (Miritello et al., 2013).

One such obstacles arises because of the conflicts between the sender and the recipient in terms of competence and judgment. People can interpret the same information in different ways depending on personal experience (Smillie & Blissett, 2010). Information that contradicts an individual’s experience or previously acquired concepts is often either completely rejected or curved depending on this experience or concepts. As a result, ideas encoded by the sender can be distorted and not fully understood.

Semantic barriers. When one enters the contact information, he/she uses symbols, which make it possible to share information (Smillie & Blissett, 2010). The sender encodes a message using verbal and nonverbal symbols. The most common symbols in everyday life are words.

Words as symbols may have different meanings to different people and therefore, the information someone introduces will not necessarily be interpreted and understood in the same way as the recipient of information supposes (Smillie & Blissett, 2010). An example is the English word tip. Waiters can interpret this word as a gratuity; people gambling at the races interpret is as advice; while printers consider tip a special device (a nozzle).

Semantic variations often cause misunderstanding, because in many cases it is not a fact that the recipient of the information can accurately understand the meaning of a word the sender uses (Griffin, 2011). For example, if the head says to the employee that he/she considers the report "adequate", he/she may intend that the report fully fits the goals. However, the subordinate can decode the word "adequate" in the sense that the work is simple and requires significant improvement. Moreover, there may be cases when the recipient does not know the meaning of a word or a phrase used by the sender of the message.

Semantic communication barriers can create problems for companies operating in a multinational environment (Smillie & Blissett, 2010). For example, the company General Motors introducing the model Chevy Nova on the Latin American market did not generate the expected level of sales (Watzlawick et al., 2011). After research, the company found out that the word "Nova" in Spanish meant "it does not go"(Watzlawick et al., 2011).

Nonverbal interference. Although verbal symbols (words) are the main tool for coding ideas, people use nonverbal symbols for broadcast messages (Smillie & Blissett, 2010). In non-verbal communication, individuals use any symbols except words. Most commonly, non-verbal communication appears together with verbal and may strengthen or change the meaning of words. Exchange of views, positive and negative facial expressions are all examples of nonverbal communication.

Another type of nonverbal communication is formed by the way people pronounce words. It includes the intonation, voice modulation, fluency of speech, and other (Smillie & Blissett, 2010). The way a person pronounces the words can significantly change their meanings. For instance, the question "do you have any ideas?" written on the paper means a request for ideas. However, if the question is proclaimed with sharp authoritarian tone and irritation, it can be interpreted as follows: "if you know what is good or bad for you, do not propose any ideas that conflict with mine" (Griffin, 2011).

As well as semantic barriers, cultural differences in the exchange of nonverbal information can create significant barriers to understanding (Smillie & Blissett, 2010). For example, having received a business card from Japanese, one should immediately read it. If a person puts it in the pocket, he/she hereby demonstrate Japanese that he/she is considered an insignificant person.

Weak feedback. The absence of feedback on the message sent by the sender is another constraint of efficient information exchange between the parties (Smillie & Blissett, 2010). Feedback is important as it enables to establish whether the message received by the recipient is interpreted in the sense that the sender has intended.

The inability to listen. Effective communication depends not only on how accurately and effectively a person can transmit information but also on his/her ability to receive messages (Smillie & Blissett, 2010). Unfortunately, most people believe that listening means to behave safely and give the other person an opportunity to talk. However, it is only a part of the “listening” process.

Distortion of messages. When information moves within the organization up and down, the content of the message is somewhat distorted. Such distortions may occur due to several reasons. Messages may be distorted accidentally because of difficulties in relationships between people (Griffin, 2011). Conscious distortion of information can take place when a higher-level employee does not agree with the message (Griffin, 2011). In this case, the person modifies the message so that the change of the content is beneficial to him/her.

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Distorted information exchange can also occur because of filtering (Smillie & Blissett, 2010). In an organization, there is a need to filter information so that only the messages relevant to a particular level of organization or department are exchanged (Smillie & Blissett, 2010). To speed up the flow of information or make the message clearer, a great variety of information is consolidated and simplified before sending it to different segments of an organization. Such selection can cause inconsistencies with the message received by a particular organization or sector (it can disappear, fail to be sent or received, or be received with a substantial meaning distortion).

The message sent "up" may be distorted due to a different status of organizational levels (Griffin, 2011). Senior executives have a higher status and there is a tendency to report only positive information to them. This can lead to a situation in which the subordinate does not inform the head about a potential or existing problem because no one wants to report bad news to a leader.

Further, since subordinates often have the desire to get approval from a supervisor, they can tell him/her only what the supervisor wants to hear. Among other reasons that prevent workers from transmitting information “up”, it is important to mention the fear of punishment and a sense of indifference.

Alternative Course of Action

  1. Admit the mistake and improve communication strategies.

The company needs to admit its mistake and work on its elimination. In particular, the management of an organization can introduce a “learn to listen” campaign, which will teach the employees and the company’s managers and supervisors how to make communication effective and beneficial. Some of the recommendations may include:

  • Give up speaking – one cannot listen while speaking.
  • Help the speaker feel freer.
  • Show the speaker that one is willing to listen to him/her – the parties should look and act interested.
  • Eliminate factors that cause irritation (do not draw or knock on the table while listening to another person’s speech).
  • Try to feel the problems of the speaker.
  • Be patient - do not save time, do not interrupt the speaker, do not make steps towards the door.
  • Keep your character - angry man fills his/her words with inappropriate content.
  • Do not allow debates or criticism to appear- it forces the speaker to take a defensive position. Do not argue.
  • Ask questions - it shows the speaker that a partner is listening to his/her speech and helps move forward in solving the problem.
  • Give up speaking - this advice is the first and the last because other recommendations depend on it. It is emphasized that one cannot effectively listen if another person talks.
  1. Admit the mistake but leave everything without changes.

The organization admits its mistake but prefers not to make any changes. The company can explain such a choice by a lack of financial support, human resources, and/or a particular strategy. As a result, the company will either experience a worsened reputation or no changes (if the consequences of bad communication are not essential and can be easily forgotten). Nevertheless, the communication problems of an organization will not be solved on their own and will grow and develop putting the company at risk.

  1. Do not admit the mistake.

Organization prefers not to admit its mistake and ignore all consequences. Despite the fact that the company may function successfully for a particular period of time, it is doomed to fail after the communication issue. A company cannot function successfully if it experiences communication problems and refuses to improve them.

  1. Provide training and meetings that will promote communication skills, teach how to build an effective communication strategy, and prevent communication problems.

The company does not wait until the communication problem arises and provides reasonable training programs that will teach the organizational team how to build effective communication strategies, quickly react to communication problems, and maintain a high level of communication.

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