Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Good communications equal a bad plan?

One of the fundamental principles of communications is that the amount of planning is inversely proportional to the efficiency of communications available.  The better communications you have the less planning you have to do.  The more planning you do, you are less dependent on the need to communicate.

To illustrate: a family hits the shopping mall.  In the old days, a detailed plan would have to be worked out, something like: "Everybody, it's free and easy for the next 30 minutes.  Then we meet at this water fountain.  If by 35 minutes, Johnny doesn't show up, this is what we will do,......"  Lots and lots of if's then else's to cover all conceivable contingencies.  Today, when a family reaches the mall, everyone takes out his or her cell phone, does a battery check, and everyone do whatever he or she likes.  When someone feels it's time to go, the phones start ringing.

This similar scenario occurs everywhere.  When an army wants to conduct an attack, a detailed plan with all sorts of contingencies covered means there is less need to rely on battlefield communications, which can be very poor.  A haphazard plan means everyone will be screaming into their radios when something unexpected happens.

A corollary from the above means that it is idiotic or sheer arrogance not to switch on your cell phone when you have one.  For if you know when you need to use the phone (ie you have a good plan), you wouldn't need a phone.

There are opposing arguments on whether having efficient communications is good or bad overall.  There are some who say that relying too much on good communications means there is no plan or no good plan.  But there are others who say detailed planning to avoid communications is impractical and would only lead to rigid and uncreative plans.

Extending the paradigm further, remember the times when an author writing a novel means inserting a piece of paper into a typewriter.  The writer has to compose mentally to some great detail before he commits onto paper.  With word processing software, it's type, delete, cut and paste at no extra cost or effort.

The same goes into finance budgeting.  If you work in a company where everything you want to purchase must be in the annual budget, you would be forced into detailed planning and forecasting the year before.  But if there is no such need, you would be making purchases every now and then and may over spend.

No comments: