I've been thinking how communication fails between 2 people although it is in formal written format. People really need to learn to read. I mean not just go through the written stuff but really read what's written. Its somewhat similar to the difference between hearing and listening. When one person merely goes through the written text, chances are high that communication will fail. The message will not be received and interpreted correctly and hence the feedback will be wrong.

Let me share some examples of failed communications I have come across recently;

  1. Tom received an email from his client. The client had written that he had gone through the printouts of some templates that Tom had given and he updated the templates and sent back those updated templates. The client also wrote in the email that he will discuss 2 pending templates the next day.

    Tom's reply: where can I find the remaining 2 templates?

    Now what exactly was wrong here? Did Tom really read the email body? Or did he just read the subject line and downloaded the attached templates? Maybe, Tom did simply go through the email body without giving a thought to what he was really reading. If only Tom had really read the email he would have known that 2 templates are pending and require discussion with the client, which he would do the next day.

  2. Sam(tester) reported a bug in the bug tracking system. Jim(developer) resolved the bug and reassigned it to Sam for verification.

    Sam found that the bug fix introduced another issues in the same module, so he added a note describing the situation and reassigned the bug to Jim for fixing. Jim reassigned the bug to Sam with resolved status and this cycle went on for additional 2 times.

    Jim irritated with same bug being reassigned again and again and this happened for more than 1 bug. So Jim called Sam to his desk and decided to check and discuss every bug and close it once and for all.

    Jim opened 1 bug in the bug tracker, pointed at it and asked Sam why is he reassigning the same bug again and again?

    Sam's reply: please scroll down. (Jim scrolls down a little). A little more. (Again Jim scrolls a little). A little more(the cycle is repeated 5 times before the notes section appears in the screen). Did you read this note?

    Jim: no I just ready the title and summary.

    So Jim doesn't even read the bugs that are being reported in his code and assumes that Sam is just irritating him for no reason.

  3. Robert(Project Manager) and Tony(developer/team lead) asked Mark(tester) to prepare test plan for a project and told him to specify the resources and test environment that will be required for testing.

    Mark prepared a detailed report with everything mentioned in it from how many computers to which os, tools, software and browsers with versions will be required for testing. Mark mailed it to Robert and Tony asking them for feedback on whether the test plan needs any editing and if not then to approve of it for continuing the further process.

    Tony approved the test plan and wrote a reply email to Mark regarding the approval.

    A week later Robert and Tony call on Mark and ask him for the requirements of resources and environment needed for testing.

    Now the question arises,
    Did Tony and Robert really read the test plan before approving it? If not why so? And if they did how come they are still asking for the requirements?

A lot of problems can be solved if the communication is done properly. The sender sends a message but it the receiver who has to really read and understand the message and then give an appropriate feedback for the communication to be a success. Yes, it maybe the case sometimes that the sender's message is incorrect or not clear, in that case as well the receiver should reply with proper feedback asking for clarification.

People, please learn to read. Do yourself this favor.

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