Communication is the process by which information is exchanged and understood by two or more people. A manager must not only possess good communication skills, he must also be able to communicate effectively. When communicating internationally, managers should be aware of critical factors that may affect communication. For example, language barriers, cultural differences, and the channel used to communicate to name a few.
Based on Vicente Ruiz’s actions and his conversation with Chuck Moore, the differences in cultural attitudes towards communication in the United States as compared to Mexico that can be detected can be explained according to Geertz Horfstede’s value dimension. Americans tend to be individualistic in that individuals are expected to look after themselves. Mexicans on the other hand lean more towards collectivism, as they prefer a more tightly knit social framework, where members of an organization protect each other’s interest. Where Americans have a low power distance, in contrast Mexicans have a high power distance.
Power distance refers to the degree to which people accept inequality in power among institutions, organizations and people. Both sides seem to be very assertive; however, it is obvious that there are differences in cultural attitudes toward communication between these two countries. Americans tend to do business directly, whilst Mexicans prefer to build relationships before going into business, and they also don’t seem to value punctuality as time is a flexible commodity. Understanding these differences is therefore very important in doing business, as cultural attitudes play an important part when doing business internationally.
Also if consideration is not given to channel richness, the wrong message could be sent. The channel used in this case caused Chuck Moore’s communication to be treated routinely. Communication, although it appears to be a simple process, must be done properly and effectively to ensure success in business in not only the domestic environment, but also when communicating globally. What was the main purpose of Chuck’s communication to Vicente? To Michael Sato? What factors should he have considered when choosing a channel for his communication to Vicente? Are they the same factors he should have considered when communicating with Michael Sato?
Chuck Moore is the national sales manager for Hunter-Worth. He was concerned that a shipment of a new interactive cuddly plush toy would not arrive on time for the Christmas season sales. He therefore communicated with Vicente Ruiz, the plant manager of the Mexican subsidiary that manufactured the toy. The main purpose of Chuck’s communication to Vicente was to inquire about the status of the latest order, which was late. He asked for a production schedule for pending orders, and also requested a specific explanation as to why the Mexican plant seemed to be having problems with shipping orders on time.
Michael Sato is the executive vice president for sales and marketing, and he is also Chuck Moore’s supervisor. The man purpose of Chuck’s communication to Michael Sato was to appraise him of the problem he was having with Vicente Ruiz and also his concerns as to the availability of the toy that could be the season’s best seller. Chuck used upward communication, which are messages transmitted from the lower to the higher levels in the organizations hierarchy, and this falls in the type, problems and exceptions, where a manager would inform his supervisor of any serious problems, and to make senior managers aware of difficulties.
His communication to Michael was also to inform him of what he had done so far, and also to get advice on what else could be done. Chuck had a choice of many different channels he could have used to communicate with Vicente. He chose to send an email. When choosing a channel for his communication to Vicente, Chuck needed to think about the urgency of the information he required or the nature of the message he was sending and use the best possible channel of communication. This is where channel richness comes in.
Channel richness is the amount of information that can be transmitted during a communication episode. The channel that Chuck chose to communicate with was low in channel richness. In the hierarchy of channel richness of which face-to-face communication is the highest and reports or bulletins are the lowest, there are advantages and disadvantages. High channel richness has the advantage of being fast, two-way with fast feed- back. There was a breakdown in communication due to the Chuck’s choice of channel of
communication, as his message was distorted by noise in the form of interference by Vicente’s secretary, who treated it as a routine message and handled it accordingly. These are the same factors Chuck should have considered when communicating with Michael Sato, as he was sought a quick resolution to the situation. He again used a channel low in channel richness and his message was dealt with. Since Michael Sato was also his friend, he could have taken the opportunity to meet with him and discuss ideas on how to resolve the problem.
Instead Michael Sato dealt with the situation as it was communicated to him. Face- to-face communication in this instance would have been a better channel, thus avoiding misunderstandings. If you were Chuck, what would you have done differently? What steps would you take at this point to make sure the supply of the popular new toy is sufficient to meet the anticipated demand? With an understanding of the cultural differences of his Mexican counterpart, if I were Chuck first of all I would have developed a personal communication network with Vicente Ruiz.
This is the cultivation of personal relationships that cross departmental, hierarchical and even organizational boundaries. Since Mexicans like to build relationships before doing business, it would have been profitable to build a personal communication network with the Mexican subsidiary. At this point Chuck may treat this situation as he would a crisis, and taking into consideration the short period of time to fix the situation, he needs to begin with effective communication, since prompt and thoughtful communication with Vicente can turn the situation to his advantage.
He should not lose focus at this time, and he should also pay a visit to the Mexican subsidiary to do damage control. With mutual understanding of Vicente’s supply problems and Chuck Moore’s urgent need for an ample supply of the popular new toy, both managers should meet, and listen to each other’s problems and come to a solution that would benefit both sides, thus building a relationship for future references.