Igor Scaldini

October 28, 2023

A “communication problem” is never a communication problem

I’m always intrigued when someone tells me that they couldn’t hit the mark because “there was a communication problem across the marketing and sales team”, or that the project didn’t achieve the client’s expectation because “there was a communication problem with the product team”.

Or that a team doesn’t get along due to “communication problems”.

What does a “communication problem” tell you., anyway?

Usually, nothing.

So, when someone says that there is a communication problem, I automatically assume that what they’re actually saying is:

“We have an operational problem that we don’t quite understand, so we’re calling it a communication problem”.

Every “communication problem” is, at the end of the day, an issue in the operations – more specifically, a process-design problem.

For instance, years ago, I was working with a client who wanted to launch a dating app in Europe. They built a whole brand strategy for this and invested thousands of dollars to create an app version that would fit Europeans’ needs.

However, when the product landed in the marketing team’s hands, it turned out that Europe is quite restrict on dating app promotions, and we couldn’t use 90% of what had been made in terms of brand and design assets.

The first sentence the project manager spoke in the next meeting was: “it seems like we had a communication problem”.

Did we really have a communication problem? I mean, I don’t think any of the communication channels stopped working or suddenly someone in the team forgot how to communicate.

What happened was clearly a process-design problem.

Checking the regulations of the target location wasn’t a step in the process, and it cost a lot of time, money, and the team’s motivation.

Problems like these happen all day around the world, in every company – from the ice cream truck on the sidewalk to Google and Netflix. What sets successful operations apart is how you frame these issues…

A “communication problem” that there isn’t much to do about OR a process problem that should be fixed by updating the process in the first place. 

About Igor Scaldini

Marketing, Business & Growth