CRM Films
2215 Faraday Avenue
Carlsbad, CA 92008

December 24, 1997


Ms. Tracy Hawley
Marketing Manager
Marketing Department


Mr. Rod Welch
The Welch Company
440 Davis Court #1602
San Francisco, CA 94111 2496

Subject: Verbal Communication, The Power of Words

This is a management training film to improve communication. It is reviewed here and analysed in the SDS record for 971229.

The introduction shows a series of phrases:

It then scrolls onto the screen what are described as "Positive Statements"

  • You've done a great job
    You're irreplaceable
    Let's work together

  • Hope


Opening scene

People learn early that words have power, illustrated by a baby asking for a cookie, and the mother getting a cookie.

Thus, learned behavior seems to be based on experience of cause and effect.

The close of the film says everyone wants to be...


The film says...


...contributes to accuracy of hearing what was said, but the film fails to point out that feedback is also a "metric" of understanding, and the film does not explain the process by which the human mind gives "meaning" to information in order to create "understanding."

Without this baseline of meaning, discussion of "understanding" is not helpful.

How do we know when we have...


...or that our understanding has been adequatelly conveyed, which is the typical objective of communication?

The film says at the end of the scenarios to...

  1. Say what you feel.

  2. Say what you think.

  3. Put it into words.

These prescriptions are okay for a baby, but do not work for adults.

People say what they believe and hope will get results, and recognize that often restraint is required. "Community," which is the purpose of "communication," requires common understanding for common action. It cannot be achieved by expressing personal feelings, which by definition are self-centered rather than "community-centered."

Culture, tradition, manners, hierarchy (power). background and many other factors make it appropriate not to say what we feel and think on every occassion. Rather people strive to understand the listener's perspective and shape a message that will be receptive.

There is no explanation in the film that understanding flows from simple communication that directly connects near term action with objectives of speaker.

"Understanding" can be usefully applied in management science to mean...

what stands under information.

What "supports" it?

How is it linked to the past that establishes cause and effect, correctness and gives meaning by alignment with "referents"?

Thus, a key ingredient of "understanding" is...

chronology other words sequence or more simply -- time!

If we know when something occurred in relation to other events, we begin to "understand why something happened, and can better predict future results and determine adjustments to correct past mistakes. In order to know when things happened, we need a record. Someone has to write it down. If we have a lot of records showing a continuous pattern of similar events, we can conclude we have a good understanding of cause and effect based on experience.

Thus, experience yields understanding that imparts...


A diary is a process of creating records showing the chronology of when things happened, and so is a critical part of achieving understanding, which is essential for effective communication, by providing a resource to align feedback from new information.

The CRM training film, however, fails to explain that more and more and more communication decreases understanding because a constant flow of information increases exponentially the array of relationships that require analysis for alignment. The potential for mis-alignment, mistakes, extra cost and delay, therefore increase exponentially.

Scene 2

Misunderstanding of complex communication by adults results in failed objectives and frustrations.

The film focuses on failed communication that cause hurt feelings.

The film fails to show the cost in money and time of rework to correct the results of misunderstanding, which causes far greater hurt feelings than momentary emotional outbursts.

Understanding Flows from Feedback, Impaired by Complex Communication

The film does not explain the difference between a...

  1.'s simple request for a cookie that is easily and quickly carried out, which constitutes immediate "feedback" by someone who has a vested interest in satisfying the request; and...

  2. communications which are complex (multiple people, issues, sources, and different times), cannot be easily and quickly carried out to provide "feedback, and generally involve people who have conflicting objectives and low level interest in satisfying requests, and who are reluctant to provide feedback, because often the...

    speaker is NOT receptive to feedback.

Communication and results are often disconnected in time and distance, so that cause and effect are not readily apparent, as it is in a baby asking for a 9 cookie. Disconnecting cause and effect leads to errors and extra cost due to limited span of attention, and to frustrations and failure.

The film fails to cite the common ingredient between the baby's communication and that of a boss at work: both want action.

Thus, it seems helpful to use "actions" as a "metric" of understanding. In other words, we can measure communication by what action is taken. In business it is often too late to wait for action to take place. We need a way to discover action that is going to occur, so efforts can be made to avoid wrong actions from mis-communication.

Time management relates in business to scheduling action. Therefore, one measure of "understanding" information can be the action scheduled as a result of communication.

Thus, "scheduled" action is a form of measuring understanding.

Scene 2 in the office scenario is a boss complaining that an assignment to make a video tape was not completed on time for an important marketing event. The background of the meeting where the assignment was made indicates that the boss did not say when the film was needed, and the reporter did not ask for a completion date. The focus of their communication was on the quality of the work product, in this case a film.

Communication Requires Attention to Subjects and Feedback

The film says effective communication requires...

  1. Speaker
  2. Language - choose words that are clear and specific
  3. Environment
  4. Listener
  5. Feedback

This list needs to be expanded to include...

  1. Incentive to listen, pay attention, act
  2. Span of attention
  3. Alignment with objectives, requirements and history
  4. Coherent story, beginning, middle, result, i.e., cause and effect

The film uses
feedback too narrowly as a means to simply ensure the listener hears what was said by the speaker.

Effective communication requires feedback to discover what was intended by the speaker and how it aligns with organizational objectives, requirements, prior communication and related sources (context) so that intentions can succeed.

The film fails to cite inherent weaknesses of verbal communication:

  1. Speakers often do not say what they mean.

  2. Verbal communication requires a metric of what is...

    • said
    • meant

    ...thus meaning and intentions can be different from what is actually said.

    Therefore, business metrics for communication must capture both what is said, and what is meant

  3. What is actually said is influenced by...

    1. Speaker's recent thoughts from...

      1. Other meetings, calls discusisons

      2. Family events

      3. Culture, movies, music, news

      4. Limited work on subject such that speaker is uninformed but is unaware of being uniformed because research takes too much time.

    2. Speaker's assessment of audience relative to controversial issues, desired actions and actions to be avoided.

    3. Speaker's attitude based on health, success.

    4. Speaker's energy and assessment of audience ability to listen effectively to more input.

    5. Time speaker and listeners have for communication is limited

    6. Plans for follow-up

      Where follow up can be evaluated independently, then what is said may be more limited than if it is necessary to guage likely follow-up from a contiguous communication.

  4. What is actually heard is influenced by...

    1. Speed and clarity of speaker's delivery.

    2. Environment of presentation.

      The CRM film says to shape the environment for communication to avoid distractions and noise.

      Other environmental factors that impact communication but which were not mentioned in the film are:

      1. Formal event
      2. Perceived importance of subject
      3. Routine meeting with many people or only a few people
      4. Interruptions
      5. Location: on or off site, home or hostile turf, travel?
      6. Tired, end of day, mid-day, or early meeting?
      7. Length of agenda - makes people tired

      Further, suppose the environment is noisy and chaotic. How is the value of communication preserved and implemented?

      Is the cost of failed communication worth the cost of ensuring success by adding a "metric"?

    3. Listener's recent thoughts from...

      1. Other meetings, calls discusisons
      2. Family events
      3. Culture, movies, music, news
      4. Education, training

    4. Listener's attitudes from health and success.

    5. Time for listener and speaker to cover subject

  5. What is remembered and acted upon depends on...

    1. What is said, per limits above.
    2. What is heard, per limits above
    3. What is written down and integrated into the work flow
    4. Limited time and span of attention to capture understanding
    5. Conflicting agendas

Communication Metrics is a business system that provides timely feedback on understanding and follow up.

Assignment Was Inadequately Explained, Not Clarified by Feedback

Scene 2 flashback showed the meeting that led to failed results.

The boss said to the marketing production manager...

I want a good solid piece (film).

Spend some time on it -- only not too much time.

You know what I mean!

[This line is the title of the CRM film I saw at U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Washington D.C. -- it is the center of all communication issues, i.e., "meaning."]

The CRM training film shows that the boss said to herself...

If this film comes out well, I can take it with me to the awards event.

However, she dos not say this to the production manager, and he does not ask when the work is needed. There was no feedback on the completion date for the project.

The film scenario does not make clear nor suggest reasons why the "completion date" subject was not discussed. It could have been...

  1. Unimportant - at that time

  2. Tired - people wanted to end meeting

  3. Time - not enough for attention to all relevant subjects

  4. Subjects - too many overwhelms and diverts limited span of attention

Generally, the film showed that the boss was a "fast-study" who liked to work by conversation, and was impatient with details. While no context was offered in the film, the usual reason for this kind of miscommunication is limited time due to rushing from one meeting to the next, to the next phone call, fax and, today, email.

Cost of Miscommunication is Greater than Cost of Remedy

The training film does not calculate the cost of miscommunication so that the cost/benefit of a remedy can be assessed.

Should more time have been invested in the beginning in order to avoid later expenditure of time, money and emotion? How can we tell without a calculation of the cost of error?

The film implies that miscommunication can be solved by the boss being more clear in making assignments and/or by staff requesting clarification of the completion date.

This solution would cost essentially nothing, and so implies incorrectly that miscommunication is a matter of free-will that can be accomplished without any investment of time and expertise. This impresssion causes organizations to strive for "communication on-the-cheap" and overlooks the long established rule that...

talk is cheap

.,.the correlary of which is that...

effective communication requires time and hard work

...directed at...

investing intellectual capital

...which is a constant process of...

adding intelligence to information to produce knowledge

Another name for this process is...

continual learning

...which is called out by ISO criteria, and increases earnings because...

time is money, and knowledge is power

Feedback Is Complex, Time Consuming and Risky

The CRM training film uses dialog between an airplane pilot and an air traffic controller to illustrate the role of feedback to ensure accurate understandings in communication.

The film, however, fails to point out that this type of communication is very limited on a narrow subject.

The film does not show how to apply this feedback process in...

  1. Business meetings

  2. Discussions between boss and subordinate who are afraid to question and who fear questions.

  3. Feedback through probitive inquiry to clarify the variety of meanings that a lot of different people can draw from common events.

    Inquiry is inhibited by desire to...

    1. Avoid controversy
    2. Be courteous
    3. Spare embarrassment
    4. Time is limited

  4. Overcome executive mindset to...

    1. ignore realities, fear accountability, deny need for feedback
    2. maintian hubris
    3. expedite and overlook that haste makes waste

Post Film Review by B. J. Hateley - Managerial Consultant

At the conclusion of the communication scenarios, a group of about 15 managers ranging in age from about 40+ - presumably mid-to-senior people, were led by a management expert to analyse the training film, as in a management training class.

The moderator focused analysis by the class on how employees feel when they are criticised in a group/public setting.

Hateley describes feeling bad as "damage" but does not explain how much poor communication costs.

Hateley offers a suggestion on how to express personal disappointment with the performance of an employee without causing hurt feelings. She suggests not using "you did ..." which accuses a subordinate of failure, but to use "I feel..." to engage the subordinate in a constructive consideration of how to improve future performance.

Hatelely, however, does not suggest how to avoid misunderstanding that leads to failed performance which causes hurt feelings.

Telephone Game - "Grapevine" - "Gossip" Cause Misunderstanding

The post-film moderator, Hateley, conducted a "telephone game" to illustrate how verbal communication causes misunderstanding.

She wispered a statement to one member of the seminar class, and each person wispered it to their neighbor. The last person said out loud to the class their understanding of what was wispered. Of course it was much different from the initial statement.

The moderator, Hateley, explained this phenonmena illustrates the danger of "gossip" in an organization when official announcements are incorrectly repeated by word-of-mouth.

Hateley failed to explain that "guess and gossip" causes a constant stream of errors by executives and managers all day long as they go from meeting to meeting, from call to call and from email to email, spreading misunderstanding like a contagion infecting a human body, a body politic, or an entire region. Reliance on verbal communication is the foundation of "feel good" management that is inherently error prone due to the vagaries of meaning, limited time and limited span of attention.

Listening Can Significantly Improve Earnings

The moderator, B.J. Hateley, says that people typically listen to only about 25% of of what is said. Another way of saying this is that people listen effectively only 25% of the time.

Listening is explained as a process of...


Hateley said most people spend most of their time...

Planning a response

...and, she characterized this "planning" as misplaced time and energy.

Hateley points out that people interpret what they hear as similar to what they have heard perviously. Their evaluation results in a conclusion that the remainder of what will be said will be similar to patterns of prior statements. This evaluation results in anticipating what will be said and causes people to "tune out" to what is actually said.

Hateley notes that she has a lot of research at home showing poor listening costs organizations a lot of money.

However, Hateley fails to help the audience calculate the cost of miscommunication due to poor listening or any other cause.

  1. There is no attempt to add up the extra costs that could have been incurred in the training film scenario 2, where the reporter cited having to perform overtime work and having to take a plane flight to deliver work product so that it could be used at a parituclar event.

  2. There was no attempt in the film to assess the potential for the content of work product to have been incorrect owing to misunderstanding at the assignment meeting.

  3. There was no attempt to assess the ripple effect on lost time and extra cost due to the rework cycle. How much time is required daily for "problem handling" to correct mistakes caused by miscommunication from trying to expedite under the common sense rule:

    Haste makes waste

  4. There is no effort to disclose that errors in understanding occur even if people listen carefully 100% of the time because the human mind that intreprets and evaluates what is heard... inherently applies

    1. what has been heard from...

      1. Other meetings, calls discusisons
      2. Family events
      3. Culture, movies, music, news
      4. Education, training

    2. the mind commingles fragments of phrasing from prior events with phrases from the current event. An emotional high or low from a successful or failed prior communication increases the potential for commingling that degrades understanding of both communications.

    3. the speaker makes miss-statements.

    4. limited span of attention and limited time prevent on-the-spot feedback necessary to verify meaning, accuracy of representations and alignment of what is said and heard with prior understandings and controlling factors.

    5. Human memory fades quickly unless what is heard is integrated into a flow of thought and action that reinforces it, or unless accurate notes are captured that set out a "story" that is comprehensible over time.

    6. there isn't enough time to prepare notes that integrate what was said into a comprehensive story that accurately connects new information to prior events, related sources, controlling authority and generates a schedule of action items.

    7. there isn't enough time for people to read a comprehensive record and to verify and correct misunderstanding from prior events.

  5. The total potential for error in communication is much larger than people can imagine, because the human mind buffers out mistakes in order for people to function in a hectic environment.

  6. The saying that people use only 2% of mental capacity is supported by the observation that people listen only 25% of the time. Since the potential for misunderstanding is very high even where effective listening takes place, the extra time and frustration of having to correct miscommunication is a constant cause of extra cost.

Hateley says that "listening" is the most important (number one) skill that...

customer service

...people should have.

She fails to support this with an explanation of how earnings can be improved by investing in better "listening" and she fails to explain a practical method or process to improve listening.

She points out that "listening" entails more than simply hearing what is said.

Listening includes being sensitive to...

body language

Hateley fails to point out that communication is a two-way process of speaking and listening which requires adding intelligence to convert inert information into knowledge and ideas by connecting up what is said with...

  1. what has been said previously by this speaker and other speakers

  2. what has been thought by the listener

  3. objectives of listener

  4. objectives of organization...


  5. what has been written


  6. commitments

  7. requirements


Hateley does not explain that improving communication reduces cost and increases opportunity by applying the 98% of mental capacity that is wasted by people due to limited span of attention that human biology imposes, and so to realize this potential requires special tools and dedicated resources.

Feedback is More than Parphrasing; Need Alignment with Prior Knowledge

B.J. Hately encourages the class to provide feedback in conversation, but fails to point out that adequate feedback is almost never possible because of the reasons cited above.

Hateley says feedback is a form of "double checking" to ensure adequate listening. This constructive metaphor applies Peter Drucker's view that information systems need to apply the rigor of accounting. Accountants use "double-entry" methods to discover errors and fix them before they lead to disaster. Feedback in communication accomplishes the same thing when applied to the full range of human understanding, rather than to momentary listening.

She says that children growing up are not rewarded for being good listeners, but then contradicts herself by noting that children are rewarded for asking good questions. Since "questions" are a form of feedback, if questions are rewarded, then children are in fact rewarded for being good listeners. The painful conclusion is that merely being a good listener is not enough to improve communcation sufficiently to improve earnings and reduce frustrations of misunderstanding.

How then can feedback be accomplished to improve communication so that earnings can be increased?

Business Metrics for Communication Needs a "Pilot" to Keep the Team on Course>

The CRM film could analyse the contribution of two elements of modern life:

  1. Alphabet
  2. Chief executive the foundation for applying "business metrics" to daily communication,

Draw on the model of the alphabet for assembling small bits of data to create information. Explain the mental process of connecting information over time into patterns of cause and effect, called "knowledge." These patterns are discrete "stories" with a beginning, middle and end, that help people remember the "lessons," "rules" and paradigms of their lives. Adding meter and ryme makes stories easier to remember. So "stories" are the way the mind stores knowledge and ideas from a lifetime of human "experience." Humans invented the alphabet to preserve their "story" so it can be recalled accurately to apply the wisdom of "history" that avoid mistakes of the past and empowers civilization to move forward.

The engine of a vibrant community is communication that imparts a vision of goals and direction.

Today, technology makes information flow too fast for people to remember the connections that make a meaningful story. People are overwhelmed and frustrated, because they are disconnected from understanding the experience of their lives. We have lost sight of the lessons of history. This makes technology a significant risk to leadership.

               +----  Vision      (seeing the future by knowing the past)
Communication  |      History     (specialists write and form judgements)
 Metrics       |      Wisdom      ("uncommon sense")
   does this --+      Knowledge
               |      Experience
               |      Understanding
               +----  Meaning
                      Common Sense
                      Information   -----+
                 +--- Data               +- IT is struggling to bridge
   Computers do  |    Words/Numbers -----+    this gap
    this stuff --+    Bytes
                 |    Bits
                 +--- 0,1  (on off, yes no, right wrong, life death)

Draw on the mdel of the CEO to provide leadership with a broader vision.

Explain the CIA provides daily "intelligence" that analyses and organizes information flows from around the world each day for the President of the United States. Use the model of reporters in the broader community who summarize and provide stories so the public can comprehend the meaning of daily events. Explain the potential for Public Relations departments, who develop the "spin" on communications to protect the public image of organizations, to also provide business intelligence so that the people avoid mistakes that cause harm and losses that otherwise require a "spin" to divert attention from the truth. Make the record a benefit rather than burden. Make truth an ally rather than a foe.

Add to these ingredients a specialized technology that empowers people to "fly" through the tedious task of making the connections between new information and prior related events that show alignment with objectives, commitments and controlling forces of contract requirements, policy, regulations, codes and laws.

Add a new work role to "pilot" special technology for preparing an accurate, comprehensible story and identifies overlooked action items, and deliver this "intelligence" uniformly and instantly so that a lot of people can quickly grasp a common story and obtain details when, as and if needed.

As in the CRM film, this new kind of "pilot" can provide feedback essential to keep the team on course for a successful journey.

This would result in a system of...

Communication Metrics