Let’s All Hum a Few Bars of ‘Management by Objectives’

The Special Theory of Relativity may be abstruse, but it’d sure be easier to grasp if it were rendered in song.

At least that’s the thinking of Louis Gross, head of the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis at the University of Tennessee. As reported this week on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” Gross has established a “Songwriter in Residence” program at the institute in a bid to make the important work being done by scientists there more accessible to the public.

[EXPAND More]Country singer Jay Clark, for instance, croons these lyrics to capture Erol Akcay’s research into the evolutionary process known as sexual selection: “Sexual selection, it’s all about choosing a mate. Sexual selection, because we all like to copulate.”

Hey, it’s a try. And Peter Drucker certainly would have approved of the sentiment behind it. “One of the most degenerative tendencies of the last 40 years is the belief that if you are understandable, you are vulgar,” he remarked in a 1993 interview. “When I was growing up, it was taken for granted that economists, physicists, psychologists—leaders in any discipline—would make themselves understood. Einstein spent years with three different collaborators to make his theory of relativity accessible to the layman.”

Indeed, there is an important lesson here for all managers. Effective communication doesn’t result simply from explaining something thoroughly or expertly. Even then, you might just talk right past someone. The key is to speak in a language and a manner that the recipient can truly understand.

“The so-called communicator, the person who emits the communication, does not communicate,” Drucker explained in The Ecological Vision. “He utters. Unless there is someone who hears, there is no communication. There is only noise.” Instead, the communicator must ask himself, “Is this communication within the recipient’s range of perception. Can he receive it?”

How do you ensure that people in your organization avoid talking past one another? How do you make yourself better understood?[/EXPAND]