Sam Keller's TEC Blog

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It's Not Nagging: Why Persistent, Redundant Communication Works

Managers who inundate their teams with the same messages, over and over, via multiple media, need not feel bad about their persistence. In fact, this redundant communication works to get projects completed quickly, according to new research by Harvard Business School professor Tsedal B. Neeley and Northwestern University's Paul M. Leonardi and Elizabeth M. Gerber. At first blush, this redundant communication strategy may sound like nagging or a waste of time. But as it turns out, asking multiple times gets results.

Key concepts include:

  • Managers who are deliberately redundant as communicators move their projects forward more quickly and smoothly than those who are not.
  • Clarity in messaging matters less than redundancy. It's not the message; it's the frequency of the message that counts in getting the job done.
  • Managers without power (project team managers versus managers dealing with direct reports) were much more strategic, much more thoughtful about motivating their team. (Note that a lack of direct power is common in companies today, because so many people work on teams that form and disband on a project-by-project basis. Yet team leaders are still on the hook to achieve their business imperatives despite this absence of authority.)
  • Yet both managers with and without power met deadlines and budget goals with the same frequency, regardless of their communication strategy. However, managers without power got employees to move more quickly, and with less mop up needed later.

These results provide a concrete strategy for managers who are struggling with how best to communicate with workers. This is an actual strategy—a communication persuasion strategy.

To read the complete article, click here