Communicating is one actor, the sender, trying to get something across to another actor, the receiver using any possible medium.
That “something” is the message, undefined as it is. This complete procedure is completely dependent on both of the actors, not just the sender or receiver.
There are tons of reasons how this can go wrong. I.e. emotional and attitudinal barriers can interfere.
Only a day ago I had to cool down a heated discussion between family members. A discussion that started largely because one person understood a word to mean one thing, while the other party meant the other.
Language and any form it comes in, (spoken, written, body,… language) is a very liable to miscommunication. Think about emoticons. These filled a huge gap in the Instant Messaging mania a decenia ago. Before these small yellow faces reared their expressive heads, kids would lose BFF-status because they couldn’t add a :), and a 😡 was interpreted.
For language to work you need both the sender and the receiver to try their hardest to interpret the message as it was meant by the other party.
Even then, other stimuli and noise can derail communication between the two.
This became, again, painfully clear this past sprint.
Context: Since deadlines are still king, and teams are ought to focus on “what’s visible for the customer”, other important non-visible tasks are postponed. This included Unit Tests and ‘focus on quality’ in all forms.
My two colleagues and me, who do all of the testing tasks, weren’t all to happy with this decision. We informed management that, if focussing on the deadline and trying to reach it by neglecting quality tasks, risk would go up, quality would go down and more time would have to be investing in righting a product that was built timely, but crooked.
They understood, but stayed on course. Straight ahead but slightly starboard to those rocks on the horizon.
Language had failed.
We saw only one thing we could do: If we fear for bad quality, we have to find out just how bad things get and report.
We found bugs by the handful and pinned them on the wall. They did not like that.
Past retrospective, we were asked feedback on why so many bugs were on the wall and if the team could do anything to mitigate the time lost on bugfixing.
We had our answer ready.
Sometimes, we have to hit a wall, or distant sea-rocks, to realize the stars weren’t showing us the right course. Sometimes, we hit that wall together and sometimes we have to let others hit a wall.
It might not be the easiest or most pleasant of the media to be used for communication, but it’s definitely one of the more effective. Be sure to interpret it right and learn a thing or two.