Lateral communication is defined as the exchange, imparting or sharing of information, ideas or feeling between people within a community, peer groups, departments or units of an organization who are at or about the same hierarchical level as each other for the purpose of coordinating activities, efforts or fulfilling a common purpose or goal.
Lateral Communication - Horizontal Communication
Horizontal communication is one of the essential communication skills we need in life. This communication helps to promote teamwork and facilitates coordinated group effort within a group or organization. It usually is less structured and informal compared to vertical communication. This is true if the communication is coming from or going to upper management or from the group down to end consumers.
This communication may take place as telephone calls, e-mails, memos, letters, informal discussions, gossip, teleconferencing, videoconferencing, Second Life conferencing, and meetings set up by the group.
From Agriculture to You and Me in the department of IT, horizontal communication is the grease that makes the machine like workings of a business operate smoothly. If the horizontal communication is effective, the potential to improve and grow.
In one study (Rogers & Kincaid, 1981) it was found that how the members of a group get and deal with information can affect the performance of the group as a whole.
Within any organization there are differences in the way groups or departments within that organization communicate. The more complex the organization, group or even community, the more differences.
So on a community level, (a true story) what would you think if this happened to you. Someone from Colorado meeting someone in the rural Pennsylvania community hears the neighbor say that they have sugar. On its own it may sound like they are a sweet old soul. However, what they mean is that the person has diabetes.
As a neighbor, how I deal with this lateral communication information could affect my ability to watch out for the signs and symptoms that something is not right with their health and be able to offer help.
Take this into the health care realm. Although many in the hospital are health care professionals, there are also social workers, cleaning staff, dietary staff, and many types of secretaries and ancillary staff that lateral communication takes place with.
With all the pressures on Doctors, many do not like geek speak. Indeed, many are not aware of all the medical jargon, especially if it is out of their specialty.
So when lecturing on the negative side effects of blood transfusions and bringing up immunomodulation, although it may seem like a good thing, in reality it means decreasing the immunity for life. The more transfusions in a life time, the greater loss in immunity. Effective lateral communication requires that the speaker skill on avoiding unfamiliar terms be applied. Never assume the audience knows what your talking about.
Moving into a different department, language unique to dietary staff will not necessarily be equal and congruent knowledge base and language used by nurses even when talking about the same thing.
More complex organizations like a news broadcasting company has even more diverse groups. Camera crews, reporters, graphic artist and web-masters, sales staff, and accounting to name a few.
Each has their unique language. Failure to meet the audience needs (the audience being anyone outside your group) will result in ineffective communication.
Mastering Horizontal Communication: A Solution
How can horizontal communication be mastered, improved or even enhanced? Simply by mastering the same speaker skills that public speakers need to master. Consider how this can improve horizontal communication.
Knowing the Audience is essential for speakers. When speaking laterally to a group outside the speakers knowledge base requires making adjustments so as to best reach the audience.
Avoiding Unfamiliar Terms does not mean dumbing down your speech. It does mean to say it in the simplest way with the greatest economy of words to end up with the same meaning as a more scientific or technological expression. Audiences on the whole cannot absorb as much information as we can spew out. To give more than can be retained is like giving a drink of water to someone from a full five gallon bucket and you, the speaker are holding the bucket.
Proper pronunciation is not only a courtesy to extend, with out it, you could lose the respect of your audience. Do not just say "what ever the pronunciation is" or in some other way gloss over it. If you do not know, simply ask and learn how to say it. That is, if your a professional. Learn how to say it right.
Illustrations can be used to help the audience understand difficult concepts. So for SEO or Search Engine Optimization, to illustrate it think of a best selling book. How does it become a best seller. Basically it has to appeal to a lot of human readers. When that happens along with good advertising, even more copies sell. The book has to be good in the first place.
SEO is a process of making a website like a best seller to the search engines. If it is good it will be bought or show up in the first places on the search engine results. To make the website a best seller for the search engines requires having what is seen, content and the information on the graphics you have, all be the best they can be to as seen by the search engines.
There are some behind the scenes parts of the website that also are seen by the spiders. These too have to be best seller quality for the search engines to like the site and show it in the top result.
Coherence is essential because this is how our minds work. To jump around or jump in with an audience that does not speak the same technical language will only serve to frustrate and confuse.
Each thought needs to connect with the next coherently to have good lateral communication.
Clear Speech, Fluency, Pausing, and Gestures all can play a part in improving lateral communication.
Mastering the speaker skills is one of the best ways to master lateral communication.Speechmastery.com: The Lateral Communication Resource