Chapter 5: Selecting and Using Communication Technologies

Chapter Summary

Every communication technology has unique nuances that can hinder or improve the effectiveness of the manager. One of the greatest challenges for today’s managers is how to manage effectively the myriad of communication channels that are available.

The major criterion used in channel selection is personal convenience–as a channel’s ease of use increases, so does the likelihood of its use. Generally, little consideration is given to how the channels filter the message as well as the secondary messages the channel generates.

The chapter presents the B – C model, which helps orient the user’s thinking around the benefits and costs of channel choices. Costs to consider include learning costs in using a technology, as well as some less obvious costs such as opportunity costs, coordination costs, and switching costs. The emphasis is on making channel choices that maximize value.

The B – C model suggests some strategies and tactics that enhance the selection and usage of communication technology. For example, a prudent manager can better manage this complexity by 1) promoting a robust mind-set of the benefits and costs of communication channels, 2) deciding on the appropriate cost-benefit trade-offs when selecting channels (i.e., using rich channels for persuading others and for managing conflict) and 3) embracing the promise of social media while managing the costs of misappropriation, misinformation, misunderstanding, memory and manipulation.




Case Study

Case 5.1:  Determining Channel Mix and Usage

The purpose of this case is to determine how to select and effectively use different communication channels.

A paper mill is experiencing “communication problems.” Upon investigation, you determine that there are three major problems:

  • Employees do not feel adequately informed about the direction of the company.
  • Employees are not adequately informed about day-to-day changes.
  • There are shift-to-shift and department-to-department communication problems.

There are four primary channels used in the mill:

  • A monthly employee newsletter
  • Bulletin boards located at the time clocks
  • Departmental meetings held at the discretion of the manager
  • Weekly production reports

Other facts about the mill:

  • 800 employees (150 of which are office staff)
  • unionized, with four rotating shifts
  • 40 departments
  • located on a ½ mile stretch of a river
  • the operation is highly profitable

The company lives its values of customer-focused quality, safety and empowered employees. The CEO has an MBA from Harvard and an undergraduate degree from MIT.  He is an engineer by training, has excellent interpersonal communication skills and is committed to “Managing by Walking Around.” He is well liked by the employees but, in a plant this large, he admits, “it’s difficult to keep in touch with everyone.” In his library-like office, he talked about his vision of having a “world-class communication system.”  How should he spend his limited resources in accomplishing this vision?

Your objectives:

  1. Determine if the mill needs any new channels.
  2. Design the proper channel mix for the various communicative functions.
  3. Describe how these channels should be utilized. Consider such elements as the content, frequency of their usage, and the audience.
  4. Describe how the information should be presented to the CEO.
  5. Provide your rationale for the above objectives.

Video Resources

Diffusion of Innovation Video

  • What features of the Diffusion of Innovations theory does this clip do a good job of illustrating?
  • What features of the Diffusion of Innovations theory does this clip do a poor or misleading job of illustrating?
  • If you were to add one more slide or idea to the clip, what would it be? Why?

Hidden Costs of the Internet Video

  • What benefits and costs is the clip highlighting?
  • How effective is the clip for the intended audience?
  • If you were to add one more idea or scene to the clip, what would it be? Why?


Benefits and Costs of Phone Interviews

  • What benefits and costs is the clip highlighting?
  • How effective is the clip for the intended audience?
  • If you were to add one more idea or scene to the clip, what would it be? Why?




Question #1: A manager wants to confirm a meeting time with ten employees. The best channel for this would be ____.

Question #2: Persuasive situations

Question #3: An employee who is skilled using a particular channel (for example, holding a meeting), will most likely be successful using other channels.

Question #4: What would be the preferred channel if an executive wants to stimulate creativity but fears that status differences might inhibit a free exchange of ideas?

Question #5: What does the research reveal about face-to-face groups?

Question #6: Your author suggests that due to the pace of organizational events, completeness of the message is more important than speed.

Question #7: The manager who says, “I’m not going to have a meeting about the issue because it will take too much time to reach a decision,” is most concerned about what type of cost?

Question #8: Most effective knowledge sharing occurs face-to-face.

Question #9: A midsize construction firm wants to announce a new, somewhat complex, employee benefit program to its employees. What channel would be most effective?

Question #10: The major criterion used by most managers in selecting a channel is ____.

Question #11: Ann needs to relay a confidential business message to Sam. She decides to fax the information. What communication objective has been violated?

Question #12: Which of the following would be considered a “social attribute” of a channel?

Question #13: The sender’s personal convenience should guide channel selection.

Question #14: Which of the following would NOT be considered a social media threat by your author?

Question #15: According to the Diffusion of Innovation model, what category of technology adopters tend to have the lowest financial costs?