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Communication Channels

Everyone who deals with organisations knows them: organizational charts. In organisations they act as the contact guide for communication and inform about the functions and who carries out these functions: “Ah, you will have to discuss this with Department xy!” or “Mr. Muller from purchasing is dealing with this application!”. However, the organizational chart is only the visible, official part of communication channels, because in real life the decision-making paths do not necessarily follow the organisational structure or processes. The organisation of the organisation (Luhmann) requires well-defined couplings (who, with whom, about what and when) and instructions about direction (who must accept decisions, from whom and when?), which are handed out to be adhered to, i.e. where non-compliance entails various sanctions.

Thus, communication channels regulate responsibilities with the help of objective and hierarchical competences (social dimension), they regulate the flow of knowledge (factual dimension) and they establish a chronological implementation (time dimension). Therefore, communication channels have an influence on all guiding processes in the organisation. They are constantly exposed to the requirement for reform, must process exceptions, limit risk, underpin or enable information exchange, direct attention to the inside or the outside, speed up or slow down work processes, define control points, exclude from or include in decision-making and direct competences to the appropriate pathways.

This listing of all nine guiding processes shows that organisations cannot be sufficiently well understood when one sees them as a collection of operational activities. This has consequences, because actions can be broadly controlled, but communication cannot.