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Failures in Communication

When I was a practising barrister, I specialised in personal injury, clinical negligence and industrial disease cases.  That often meant receiving investigations carried out after somebody had suffered an injury, usually in the workplace.

There was almost always a common theme.  If you dig deep enough into the cause of a workplace incident, or a surgical procedure gone wrong, the chances are you will find a breakdown in communication.

Whether that is an important safety message not getting through to workers on the front line, or a misunderstanding around consent, this type of failure in communication can have serious consequences.

There is also sometime an excess of information such that the real message is lost because it is hidden within less important pieces of information and the recipient loses interest.

How a Facilitator can help

In my new role, as a coach and trainer, I offer a number of possible solutions to these problems which are designed to assist any organisation that wants to improve communication both internally and externally.

Depending on the issue, the tailor-made solution might emerge with:

  • Group coaching to address communication within teams
  • Training which can include cross examination to test whether any given message has got through (and whether the information can be put into action)
  • Facilitation of discussions on how to make changes including the identification of where the issues lie and how they can be solved. Doing this through facilitation either instead of or in addition to training allows teams to find solutions that really work for them as opposed to presenting them with a text book solution that they might find impossible to implement.
  • Strategy days combining some or all of the above.

And all of the above can also be combined with some fairly hard-hitting legal training on the consequences for both individuals and organisations if they find themselves caught up in the legal system.

My role as a Facilitator

I recently facilitated the discussion of a Senior Leader Team who were facing a pattern of incidents and near misses which had been attributed to a failure in communication.

It was clear that something needed to change.  But what?

How could all the specialists and leaders who would have a view on this discuss it constructively, identify the real issues and their possible solutions before formulating a plan to improve the situation in the future?

Whilst the organisation could have tackled this in one of their regular leadership meetings, they recognised that using an external facilitator was likely to lead to a better outcome.  It meant that is was my responsibility to ensure that the discussions stayed on track, that everyone was heard and that the agreed actions were recorded.

Communication – Lessons learned

As mentioned above, one of my passions is helping people find solutions that work for them in their specific circumstances rather than trying to sell an “off the shelf” solution.  If you choose to work with me that is the approach you will get.

However, there certainly are some common themes that emerge when we work together to identify what is going wrong with communication within an organisation.

The top five might well resonate with you and, if you recognise them, it is likely that solutions will start to present themselves:

  1. Too much focus on communication at the top of any hierarchy and not enough on getting the message to those who really need it
  2. Little being done to assess what types of communication work (and which don’t) which leads to the continued use of ineffective strategies
  3. Consciously or sub-consciously perpetrating a blame culture within investigations which stops real learning taking place
  4. The same people speaking up or making decisions which limits creative thinking (see also: a lack of diversity in those participating in the conversation)
  5. Insufficient emphasis/complete absence of emphasis on the importance of listening

Effective Facilitation

Of course, identifying solutions is only the start of the process.

You then need to check those solutions – are they realistic? Ethical? Can they be actioned realistically? And who will be accountable for that? By when?

An effective facilitated discussion should answer all of those questions and more.

Next Steps

I hope this has given you some ideas to help you improve communication in your organisation.

I’m always happy to have a free, no-obligation chat to see if there’s anything I could do to help.  You can see some availability here or message me on for greater flexibility.

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