Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Communication

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Communication is not only the essence of being human, but also a vital property of life. . Language was the first success he had for expressing his feelings and thoughts to others. Today, we are fighting the same struggle, but for the betterment of communication. The research topic these days is the media of communication. We have advanced to the level where communication between two distant places, is as easy as speaking. Besides being able to communicate worldwide, communication has become one of the most important aspects of our life. Communication is an art, a study and a skill besides being a necessity. Communication is the basic factor responsible for the establishment of national and international business houses. Communication is the link between various cities in a state, states in a country, countries in a continent and continents in the world. Communication is playing a vital role worldwide. It is the base of a hierarchy within an organisation. Success is too far a word to use when we talk about an organisation being run without adequate communication. Without it the exercises like training, service, production or management would not exist. Communication is a link between various levels of hierarchies in an organisation. Worldwide, communication is a key with which, you could open the locks of all doors to a reengineering effort. Inadequate communication leads to the failure of a management. Hierarchies are formed to channellize communication between various levels of an organisation. Any communication gap leads to misunderstandings and confusion within a system. The employees must be updated on all the details of their departments like their targets, deadlines, plans, responsibilities and the latest research in their fields. There has to be a communication between the top management levels to the lowest level managements. As we all know that a chain is as strong as the weakest joint, in management, a firm is as strong as its communication design. With the kind of schedule businesses have these days; it is impossible for the directors and the managers to communicate with all the employees on a regular basis. Therefore we can notice a special department for human resources, a different department for marketing and a different department for IT, etc. The reason to have these departments is to channelise and to speed up the data transfer within a system. The top level managers do not have to communicate with the low level employees, rather they talk and discuss their issues with the middle level managers who further go and discuss the details with the low level employees. There has to be a chain within a system to optimize the communication factor in a firm. The formation of this chain regularizes and simplifies the topics or issues to be worked upon. With this setup, the chances of misunderstandings or confusions are reduced to a big extent in comparison to an unchained setup. There has to be a pattern through which the demands and needs of the employees could reach the directors or managers and the same pattern should be used to send the messages of the managers to the employees. This pattern is designed with respect to the firm itself. Every management has to have a different setup for communication. The design of these patterns are planned so as to be convenient, and to be used frequently and regularly by the committee. If we look at the scenario from a different angle, we would find that there are ‘n’ numbers of confusions, misleading or misunderstandings that can take place within a setup. Focusing on the employees, if they are not clear with the task that they have to perform, they could not give back an optimized report that could practically spoil the reputation of the company besides making it land in a loss. The employees’ efforts would go waste if he were not certain about the expectations of the firm. The employees need some basic infrastructures to work in, there has to be some environment that he requires to be working religiously, now if this has not been delivered to the management, the employee would never get the infrastructure neither will he get any atmosphere that shall again stop him from working. Communication has to be two ways. If the employees know what the management has to say to them, then on the other hand the management should also be aware of the comments of the employees. There is no doubt that there are other factors that affect the setups, but communication has the maximum importance as it delivers not only the reports and tasks, but also the thoughts and plans of the employees among each other as well as the senior managers. For a better understanding I would like to discuss communication in agile modeling. Communication is one of the fundamental values of Agile Modeling (AM), although it would be more accurate to say that effective communication is what AM deems critical to your success. What is communication? With respect to AM, communication is the act of transmitting information between individuals. Why is communication an issue worth discussing? Because the need to communicate effectively pervades software development, operations, and support. Developers and users must communicate. Developers and operations staff must communicate. Developers and management must communicate. Developers and … well, you get the idea. In this paper I explore the issues surrounding communication, and in particular focus on how communication affects and effects reengineering efforts. For many people modeling and documentation go hand in hand, a concept that I argue is questionable at best, and therefore is a topic that needs to be addressed. Cockburn (00) contends that the most effective communication is person-to-person, face-to-face, particularly when enhanced by a shared modeling medium such as a whiteboard, flip chart, paper, or index cards. As you move away from this situation, perhaps by removing the shared medium or by no longer being face-to-face you experience a drop in communication effectiveness. As the richness of your communication channel cools you lose physical proximity and the conscious and subconscious clues that such proximity provides. You also lose the benefit of multiple modalities, the ability to communicate through techniques other than words such as gestures and facial expressions. The ability to change vocal inflection and timing is also lost, people not only communicate via the words they say but how they say those words. Cockburn (00) points out that a speaker may emphasize what they are saying, thus changing the way they are communicating, by speeding up, slowing down, pausing, or changing tones. Finally, the ability to answer questions in real time, the point that distinguishes the modeling options curve from the documentation options curve, are important because questions provide insight into how well the information is being understood by the listener. Physical proximity. The closer people are to one another the greater the opportunities for communication. At one end of the spectrum two people can be working side-by-side pair programming at the same workstation and at the other end of the spectrum two people can be in different buildings. Temporal proximity. Whether or not two people are working at the same time affects communication. You may be separated from some of your co-workers by several time zones, it is quite common for North American firms to outsource development work to Asian or European companies, or even simply by different personal schedules. I once commuted from Toronto to San Francisco to work on a development contract, spending four days a week in San Francisco. I quickly learned that I couldn’t continually be changing my internal clock to match the time zone that I was in, there is a three hour difference between the cities, so decided to stay on Toronto time. Being a morning person I was waking up at in the morning San Francisco time, however, many of my co-workers were night people and would typically work until or 4 in the morning. We found this quite effective � I would work during the day and stay at the office until they started to arrive, talking face-to-face with them as needed. I then left for my hotel, slept, and started dealing with email immediately upon waking, allowing me to find out what they had worked on during the night and then helping out via email where needed. It wasn’t ideal but we made it work. Amicability. Cockburn (00) believes that amicability, the willingness of someone to hear the thoughts of another person with good will and to speak without malice, is an important success factor. The greater the amicability a greater amount and quality of information will be communicated and less will be concealed. Amicability is closely by the trust that people have for one another and the sense of community that they share. Cockburn reports that sometimes amicability can run too high, people can be so worried about offending their colleagues that they are afraid to disagree with them or be afraid to take the initiative for fear of being perceived as glory seekers. When people are working close together, both physically and temporally, there exists an opportunity for what Cockburn calls osmotic communication � indirect information transfer through overhearing conversations or simply noticing things happening around you. Osmotic communication can often be beneficial, I’ve lost track of the number of times I was working away and subconsciously picked up valuable information such as finding out that someone was finished their current task, that something wasn’t working as expected, or even that management was thinking about canceling the project. Osmotic communication can often be harmful, particularly if another group of people is being rowdy near your or if you’re picking up false rumors such as management is thinking about canceling the project. When is communication most effective? When people are willing to work together and do what it takes to get the job done. This is why AM’s principle of Open and Honest Communication is important because if you don’t trust the information that you are receiving, or for that matter the people that are providing it to you, then your goal of effective communication is lost. The principle that Everyone Can Learn from Everyone Else is critical to your success because it defines a mindset that enables communication � someone who believes they can learn something from the person(s) they are communicating with are much more receptive than someone who believes otherwise. This principle has its roots in AM’s value of Humility, a value that time and again proves to be a significant success factor for developers. Effective communicators realize that the goal is to share information, and that this information sharing is typically a two-way street. For example, I recently attended a meeting where members of my development team were meeting with members of the team that operated another system that we needed to integrate with. Our goal was to define a contract model that described the interface to this system, something that ended up being a simple file transfer. The two groups met, as usually happens many of the people involved knew each other from previous efforts, and we very quickly got down to business. For the most part talked and drew diagrams on the whiteboard, my team had brought a deployment diagram with us that depicted how we currently believed the two systems would work together, and as a group we negotiated changes to the overall approach. Both teams came to the meeting wanting to work together. We knew that we needed this other team and the other team knew that their job was to support groups like mine. Everyone was focused on working together, and that meant that we needed to communicate well. Attitude counts. Another important success factor is your ability to pick the right mode of communication. In the example above we chose to get the right people in a room to discuss the issue face-to-face and work things out together. When we needed to we drew on the whiteboard, we even drew on our initial deployment diagram, and most importantly we talked and we listened. Yes, we could have taken a different approach. I have no doubt that we could have emailed back and forth to one another. We could also have written documents and sent them back and forth to each other. The point is that we chose not to. We had the opportunity to use a superior form of communication � face-to-face communication at a whiteboard � and we used that technique. It was fast, it was effective, it was agile. Finally, you need a positive view of documentation. Documentation can either be good or bad, therefore you should strive to stick with the good and avoid the bad. Documentation can come in many forms, including both paper and video recordings. The point is that you shouldn’t forget that documentation could often be versatile and perhaps not even very painful to create. Agile Modeling fundamental message regarding documentation is that you should write it only when it’s your best choice and only when it adds the best possible value to your project.





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