I’ve spent a lot of time this summer reading about organizational communication research, theory, and trends in preparation for beginning work on my study of the National Writing Project and the Morehead Writing Project in particular. I am interested in the ways that the Morehead Writing Project reinvented its organization and transformed from an organization in crisis to a successful enterprise. However, the recent changes in national education funding have also forced the National Writing Project to reinvent itself and reorganize. I believe this is an area of research that could be very interesting to pursue.
As I lay the groundwork for this study and plan my future projects, I do want to carefully think about a number of key terms and one of those is organizational communication. What exactly is organizational communication and why do I want to study it?
Organizational communication focuses on the role of communication in organizational life. Communication is essential to all organizations whatever their purpose, size, or goals. Social constructionists believe that communication creates the form and shape of an organization. Certainly communication serves to maintain and sustain relationships within and with the organization and its members and constituencies, but it is complex and in order for organizations and members to survive and succeed it is important to understand the communication process of the organization and that is where organizational communication enters.
Communication helps organize people to effectively live and/or work together. Organizational communication can identify and remove barriers to communication through formal exchange of information as well as more informal interactions. According to Jones, organizations, or groups of individuals working together in a coordinated way in pursuit of specific goals, require communication to plan, communicate, and pursue these goals. Jones argues that organizations do not exist without communication. Te’eni describes organizations as entities engaged in social and economic exchange and agrees that communication is the foundation for organizational action. Te’eni relies on Habermas for the purposes of that communication: reaching understanding, coordinating action, building relationships, and Influencing others. Deetz maintains that communication practices can be used to help coordinate and control the activities of organizational members and relations with external constituencies. Richmond et al describe organizational communication as a dynamic process by which individuals generate, cultivate and/or shape the minds of others in a formal organization. They argue that there are six functions of organizational communication: to inform, regulate, integrate, manage, persuade, and socialize.
Traditionally, organizational communication focused more on business and ways to improve production, but in more recent decades the focus has shifted to study aspects of organizational life that can improve the lives of organizational members as well as the organization. In addition, the types of organizations under study are much more varied. Organizational communication can include the study of how individuals use communication to work out the tension between working within the constraints of pre-existing organizational structures and promoting change within that organization. This is exactly the place where my research interests lie and I can’t wait to embark on my journey of discovery.