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Whether you’re part of a booming small business or one that is just getting started, communication is one of the major components of success. It’s important to understand how everyone in your organization should communicate with each other so that there are no misunderstandings or conflicts related to poor information sharing.
Once you have established the communication plan for your organization, be sure to create a communication flow chart. This is a useful business tool to help your employees and stakeholders understand how information should be shared within the company according to the goals you are trying to achieve.
Establish the Communication Process in Your Organization
There are many different types of communication within a company. The way the business is structured, how many employees it has and the kind of activities in which it is involved affect the way people communicate. Communication in an organization should ideally flow in several different directions.
This ensures that employees at all levels are well informed and feel comfortable learning and sharing within the business. Communication within an organization is closely tied to the culture of the organization as well. The different types of communication include:
- Internal: Takes place within the company between employees. Content may be confidential.
- External: Flows outward toward prospects, customers, investors, media and government
- Upward: Information moves from frontline employees to supervisors to managers, going up the hierarchy
- Downward: Flows down the chain of command from business leaders to frontline employees
- Formal: Structured information sharing through meetings, official memos and conferences
- Informal: Unstructured conversations and written communication between employees
- Lateral: Takes place among peers who are of equal standing
- Grapevine: Information that travels through gossip and rumors
Your communication chart should show the direction of the flow of communication based on how information is shared in your organization. For example, downward communication will flow from the CEO down to the frontline employees and every management level in between.
Determine the Goal of the Communication Flow Chart
Your communication flow chart can be used for multiple purposes, so it’s best to identify the main goals before you begin creating. What do you hope to achieve with your flow chart?
Do you want to educate your employees about how to share information for a specific project, or do you want to implement a new process for sharing information with customers? Are you planning communication for a particular industry event for which you need a visual diagram, or are you trying to remove obstacles of communication in your organization?
By narrowing down the goals of your flow chart, you’ll be better equipped to create a diagram that is succinct and helps the reader to understand how to share business information. A diagram that is trying to display too many lines of communication will appear cluttered and confusing. Your diagram should be used to clarify the relationships among different audiences and the roles each stakeholder plays in the sharing of information.
Create a Communication Flow Diagram
There are many ways you can create a communication flow diagram. Use a program that has the features you need for your business. Communication flow diagram programs include:
- Lucidchart: This tool includes simple and complex flow chart templates that are editable. There are different levels of accounts based on features and functionality.
- Creately: With both free and paid options, users can take advantage of prebuilt templates and edit them for their organization.
- SmartDraw: This tool includes a range of flow chart templates with step-by-step instructions and explanations for users of all levels.
If you only need to make one diagram or a few flow charts, you can use a program to which you have access already instead of acquiring a new one. Most word processing software has options to create flow charts by using text boxes and arrow features. Regardless of which program you use, be sure to save your work so that you can easily update the flow chart when changes need to be made.
- Remember that effective communication in an organization is two-way, so be sure to accommodate bottom-up information flow in your chart as well as top-down.
Anam Ahmed is a Toronto-based writer and editor with over a decade of experience helping small businesses and entrepreneurs reach new heights. She has experience ghostwriting and editing business books, especially those in the "For Dummies" series, in addition to writing and editing web content for the brand. Anam works as a marketing strategist and copywriter, collaborating with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to start-ups, lifestyle bloggers to professional athletes. As a small business owner herself, she is well-versed in what it takes to run and market a small business. Anam earned an M.A. from the University of Toronto and a B.A.H. from Queen's University. Learn more at www.anamahmed.ca.