Organizational Communication

ABB Asea Brown Boveri (ABB) is constantly attempting to streamline it

operation. (Pearce & Robinson, 2003) In 1997, the company had four core

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business segments: industrial automation and robotic, electrical power

generation and distribution; oil, gas and petrochemicals and, industry and

building technology. In 2000, ABB underwent an expansion to six divisions.

These were: automation technology, electricity transmission, electricity

distribution, oil, gas, petrochemicals, building technology and financial

services.(Bierbaum, Kischewski, Kischewski, & Schmidt, 2001) In 2003, ABB

in a strategic shift in favor of specialization, has chosen to concentrate

its resources and research and development on two main core sectors of

power technology and automation technology.(ABBWebPage, 2003)

The organization has dedicated and committed leaders who are willing to

critically analyze the market they face and change the organization to make

it competitive in new and changing markets. Currently the company is

considering divesting its oil, gas and petrochemical division. (ABBWebPage,

2003) The leadership at ABB was willing to change the core business of the

company from a 'capital intensive and heavy engineering products to

knowledge and service based business and high-tech integrated solution'

business. The company success in managing this change would not have been

possible without the dedication and support of trained and expert talent

the company employed. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.

Constantly restructuring and changing the core competencies of ABB can be

confusing to the stakeholders (employees, shareholders, the community in

which ABB operates) of the organization. While many organizations are

priding themselves on their ability to change quickly and constantly to

maintain market share and earn profits, individuals are wary when constant

The role of communication within an organization cannot be stressed

enough. While external communication such as advertisements and public

relation play an important role for an organization, internal communication

is the glue that helps the company stay together and achieve it's

objectives. Various definitions of internal organizational communications

exits, from a formal definition standpoint it is defined as 'the processing

of data in message form into, through and out of channels formally

designated within defined organizations, including the study of all the non-

informational matters that shape the messages.' (Manning, 1992) There are

various factors that affect the communication setup in organizations the

important factors are organizational culture, organizational structure,

motivation of the employee, job stress and information exchange climate

Kreps and Hellweg identify two types of formal communications within

organizations: vertical and horizontal communications. (Byers, 1997;

Kreps, 1986) Both authors identified two subdivisions within the vertical

communication format: Downward communication and upward communication. In

downward communication, all information transfer is sent from the

management to the workers. The employees lower down the hierarchal chain

are constantly provided information with regards to what needs to get done,

how it should get done and the time frame within which it has to get done.

Little or no feedback is expected from the employee who receives the

message. In reality it is observed that very often the message can get

complicate and distorted as the level of complexity of the job increase or

the levels through which the information flows. ABB traditionally followed

When workers lower down the ranks inform their supervisors of situations

and conditions that exist as a result of the operation upward communication

takes place. The Toyota Company's approach initially introduced this form

of communication in industries. Toyota believed that the worker on the

shop flow was very knowledgeable with regards to how the task needed to be

accomplished and the best way to perform it. While directives still had to

be given from the topaˆ'the how to information was not essential and the

worker was supposed to provide that information to the supervisor or

manager requesting the task. In this 'bottom up' form of communication,

thinking is expected from all employees in the organization and interaction

In horizontal communication, individuals at different levels of the

organization interact to share information, tactics and discusses options.

The silo effect of organizational work can create extremely limited focus

in workers ABB learnt the pitfalls of the lack of horizontal communication

when they implemented the matrix type of organization. Horizontal

communication at equal levels helps the worker or manager or department

head understand how decisions and task undertaken by them affect the

organization as a whole. While downward communications are still

important, organizations are realizing that this type of information flow

can only be completely effective if the other two, upward and horizontal

communication flow also exist simultaneously and are given equal

importance. In the past, upward and horizontal communication flow was

limited. Identifying the direction of communication flow, the nodes and

the gatekeepers can help companies stay informed of all the changes taking

The grapevine is the informal internal communication that organizations

posses. The grapevine was always considered bad by the management but the

employees swore by the information obtained from this type of

communication. It is only since organizations have begun to value the

opinions and ideas of their workers has the grapevine become a new tool for

organizational communication by the management. The validity of the

information through the grapevine is never doubted as constant and periodic

confirmation of the information is obtained at every transfer point. The

strength of this type of communication is that anyone, at any level or

department within the organization can start the communication and this

type of communication is not restricted by vertical or horizontal direction

of communication flow when compared to formal communications within the

organization. Long-term vision and foresight from managers at all levels of

the organization is required to promote alternative methods of

In ABB, the systems based structure goals and objectives are the main

driving forces and the total organizational environment played an important

role in guiding and directing the organization towards fulfillment of these

specific goals and tasks. All individuals involved in such organizations

need access to all the information available to adequately carry out their

task. Personal liability and good decision-making are key requirements in

this type of setup. A system type of organization can reach its full

potential only if there is a good and efficient two-way communications

between all levels of the organization. The role of the manager is still

critical, however not as a supreme power. The manager remains at the

centre but new ideas and evaluation of worker feed back is considered

Abraham H. Maslow and Douglas M. McGregor both believed that in order for

people to work to their full potential, they're basic needs have to be

satisfied. (Maslow, 1954) Maslow suggested that worker disaffection was

due, not to something intrinsic to workers, but due to poor job design,

managerial behavior and too few opportunities for job satisfaction.

Motivation can only be done on a personal and interactive by humans.

Achievement in a specific field, recognition of the value of the work done,

pride in the work itself, responsibility for the work done, advancement and

growth in the work place act as stimulants. They motivate the worker to

improve the quality of their work. (Herzberg, 1964) 'Job enrichment' can

only be obtained if the worker can effectively communicate to the

organization his or her individual needs and wants.

Bibliography: ABBWebPage. (2003). Our Business. Retrieved October 18,, 2003, from the World Wide Web:!OpenDatabase=/GLOBAL/AB BZH/abbzh252.nsf=76BA=us=A92797A76354298BC1256AEA00487BDB Bierbaum, H., Kischewski, J., Kischewski, S., & Schmidt, M. (2001). Analysis of the Organizational Reorientation of the ABB Group. Retrieved October 19,, 2003, from the World Wide Web: Byers, P. Y. (1997). Organizational communication : theory and behavior. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. Herzberg, F. I. (1964). The Motivation-Hygiene Concept and Problems of Manpower. Personnel Administration, January- February(486-97). Kreps, G. L. (1986). Organizational communication : theory and practice. New York: Longman. Manning, P. K. (1992). Organizational communication. New York: A. de Gruyter. Maslow, A. H. (1954). Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper and Row. Pearce, J. A., & Robinson, R. B. (2003). Strategic management : formulation, implementation, and control (8th ed.). Boston: McGraw- Hill/Irwin.

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