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A Transactional Communication Analysis- Can Managers Really Agree? Essay, Research Paper
This paper provides my analysis of an oral presentation using the transactional model of communication. This model is most appropriate to my analysis, as this presentation seeks understanding and agreement of a mid-level management group. The goal of the transaction is to gain buy-in and support of a training program from mid-level managers. My role is to prepare and verbally present information to a small group of managers. My analysis focuses on the systems perspective of the three expanding spheres of the model to reach the goal- integral, strategic and tactical. My analysis is not a detail of all the elements of the spheres. It explains some of my thoughts, in preparing for the transaction, and approaches, which were important to reaching agreement. In my conclusion, I offer why I believe this transaction is, and how one can measure, that success.
The Integral Sphere
The integral sphere, status and input assumptions, changes most slowly. The culture of my organization lies in its past and current strengths. We excel in specialized services and expertise; however, this strength is our weakness. We have few that think in terms of systems and what is best in the organizational perspective. We lose business and continue to do so, because of labor costs. Our response to new business is using a team of people, rather than the one or a small few. Our customers desire people who are generalists, not specialists, who are knowledgeable in several areas. To meet our customer?s needs and our business of tomorrow, we must retrain the existing workforce. The manager?s focus today is not toward the future business of the organization, for they immerse themselves into the work processes of yore.
There is an assumption, or known, in this sphere to overcome through the transaction. The program has total support of upper level management, the unions and all employees. All are aware of the program through a previous presentation. General acceptance is favorable to most of the employees. It is mid-level managers, however, who are most critical of the program. They refuse to see any value to their current customer needs; or, their workers. Mid-level managers foresee only an increase in their own workload and express concerns in losing employees from direct work to training.
Thinking in the integral sphere alone does guarantee success in any communication. It is but one part of the system. To gain understanding and agreement, the needs of the strategic and tactical spheres use the status and input assumptions of this sphere. Preparation in all spheres is crucial for to reach agreement. In this case, I chose to direct my attention to the strategic sphere, which builds upon the integral sphere and provides input for my preparing for the tactical sphere.
The Strategic Sphere
The strategic sphere changes purpose and method through interpretation and feedback. Although I know in advance that I cannot predict the tactical sphere, I can prepare in advance for some possible events. The managers are aware and knowledgeable of the prior presentations. There are thoughts, biases and concerns of each manager to this program already known. I prepare scenarios and what-ifs, and provide possible responses for each of them. I also have intimate knowledge of tools and other products, unknown to the managers that should ease towards agreement. This is important in considering the purpose and method of the presentation towards the goal.
In this case, the use of electronic slides supports advance strategic sphere planning in several ways. First, a minimum of slides and the use of graphics, minimizing text, evoke discussion. It focuses the attentions of the group, all that are visually oriented. Second, electronic media allows for linking to other information, if such a need arises. These slides use little material from the prior presentation noted in the integral sphere. It is likely that someone in the group will comment that the earlier presentation shows contrary information. Third, the purpose is no longer to sell a program, but to obtain the buy-in and agreement of a more focused group. The presentation and environment must stimulate communication, feedback and resolution. The previous presentation is of little benefit to this new one, as one-way communication was the purpose and focus.
The pre-planning for the strategic sphere, and thought within the integral, serves as input that leads to the success, or failure, of the transaction. For success, one must look for the keys in gaining understanding and agreement. In this case, the transaction must first show how little the effect is upon manager workload. It must show the means and method to train personnel while work continues at a normal pace. In addition, in the end, it must include the value and benefits of shifting from today?s work to that of tomorrow- in terms of the manager?s needs. The success of the transaction is the results from the tactical sphere.
The Tactical Sphere
The tactical sphere involves the interaction in the meeting through my presentation and feedback from the managers. The mid-level managers must interpret the slides and my spoken words in this sphere. I, in turn, must interpret their words, answer questions and maintain focus towards the goal. I must create the proper atmosphere: open and honest, friendly, yet formal. The challenge here is to build mutual understanding in steps that lead to agreement as a whole. To this end, I must listen actively and use their feedback as the means to that end. I can then replace my words with theirs, which allows them to better understand my message and I to confirm their understanding. In this way, I gain their support and each becomes my messenger to another.
In this case, mutual understanding is the success in leading to agreement. I am no longer the bearer of the message- the tables are turned. Through the words of the group, understanding begins to form. Their concern of an increase in manager workload lessens; they now see this is part of the usual employee evaluation process. Their concern in losing employees from direct work to training lessens; the work will continue by using overtime or making other personnel available in time of need. Understanding is complete through their words and their agreement forms. A new issue arises, how will the training labor be paid- direct or indirect?
The managers do not object to using some direct funding for training, but are sure that is not enough. Unknown to them, but known to me, is that some overhead funds are set to be available to support employee labor for program. Rather than make such information known now, this issue becomes an action item for another time. The goal of this meeting, to gain understanding and agreement by the managers, is complete. How one pays for the program is not an issue for now. The resolution of the new issue can confirm the understanding and agreement of the old. The moral here is that upon achieving the goal, fight the new need on another day.
The transactional model enables one to not only perform, but also understand and prepare, for dynamic communications. It includes the rhetorical model, but expands one?s vision to that of others when seeking resolution or mutual agreement among others. Both models are a part of this transaction and show the need for systems thought. The results of any message, though, are never complete until another interprets it as intended. Feedback is necessary to confirm receipt of the message, in this case understanding and agreement by a group. In this transaction, the feedback is not only agreement from the meeting, but by what continues thereafter. The feedback of success here appears evident by the lingering conversations after the meeting. The manager?s chats are positive and supportive of the program. It is an optimistic view, with no negative criticism or wrongful interpretations thus far. In this case, it appears resolution is a complete success. This is not always the case. Time and the future shall tell- if managers really can agree.
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