Technology Hurts Communication

That was the resounding conclusion from an informal survey of roughly 180 people who attended my session today at the PMI GLC Spring Symposium.

Technology gets in the way of people interacting. And what’s worse,  since technology makes it easy for anyone to publish information/communication and republish/forward it, technology actually makes it harder for people to communicate by raising the level of background “noise.”

Considering that a large chunk of “meaning” in a communication comes from context, this extra background noise degrades the value of any content.

Technology makes it easy for us to create, publish and share content, but more reach doesn’t translate into better communication.

Here is a list of communication/technology challenges which people in the group are facing (no particular order).

  1. Too much communication,  too much email (repeated refrain)
  2. Cultural differences across diverse teams
  3. No visual cues or body language when using IM
  4. Strong personality that dominates the meeting
  5. People are afraid to ask questions
  6. Vendor doesn’t respond in timely fashion.
  7. Causes delays for whole project
  8. Work in a virtual team
  9. Teamwork suffers
  10. No one knows who each other is. No faces, just names
  11. IM culture is weird
  12. Hard to communicate when there are issues/problems. Nobody talks about problems.
  13. Too many formats for status reports
  14. Too many communication channels
  15. People drop out of communication
  16. People don’t communicate in all the communication streams
  17. People are not comfortable speaking out
  18. Info overload
  19. Output becomes meaningless
  20. No standard tech for communication or presentations. Too many channels.
  21. Inconsistent use of IM –some people are often “unavailable” others talk too much
  22. Time zones and sound quality are a problem for International conference calls.
  23. The tech used is unsupported so meeting time and personnel get focused on getting the tech to work, instead of doing work
  24. Multiple stakeholders in different locations. Hard to get people on same page.
  25. People aren’t using all the tools at their disposal.
  26. With video conferences, how to get people to be more accountable.
  27. In a matrix organization, people have multiple projects. Who decides when someone is required to attend a particular meeting or the meeting for a particular project?
  28. With web meeting technology, are people paying attention?
  29. Losing face to face meetings, it is hard to know if communication is truly being understood.
  30. Communication is getting stuck in silos.
  31. Departments have different levels of tech expertise. Choice of channel becomes an issue. Not everyone uses the same tools.