Posted on September 20, 2019 by Tina Cermignano
Global communication Tina Cermignano
The world continues to get smaller as organizations become global and technology makes it easier to connect and work globally. As great as this is to be able to connect with people around the world there comes challenges with these advancements. Communication is one of the biggest issues that employees complain about. This happens with even small organizations that don’t have a global footprint. An example of this difference in what and how things are communicated became very obvious to me when I did a Civil War tour in Atlanta, GA after only having all of my information coming from the Northern perspective. The way this history lesson is taught and how it is described by tour guides in the South are completely different between the two regions. I was confused at times because the differences were so significant. When I asked one of the tour guides about the differences he stated that in the South they learn about the Civil War from a different perspective and that they are not taught that the South lost the war. I found that so interesting but after learning about what needs to happen in communication it makes sense. Imagine the complexities once you are communicating in a global format.
Global communication has the same definition as any communication, it is when “a message is sent from one person or group to another person or group anywhere in the world” (Weedmark, 2018). As with any communication process there is the 5- step process of communicating:
1. the message is sent
2. Message is encoded
3. Message travels through a medium, (voice, phone, text, video, email)
4. Receiver decodes the message
5. Recipient receives the message
This process happens at the very basic level of communication. When communicating globally it is usually during the encoding and decoding process that problems occur (Weedmark, 2018).
I had a unique opportunity a few years ago to participate in a consulting work between the hospital where I work and an independent group in China who wanted to build a Women and Children’s Hospital that would operate under the guidelines and requirements of U.S. healthcare institutions. I worked on this process for many months getting the details of what portion and information in my field of expertise was being requested so that I could than develop the necessary presentation. I then developed a PowerPoint presentation that was high in visual content with brief commentary or descriptions so that the presentation did most of the transfer of information, this was the encoding process. The presentation was then sent to an interpreter to translate the presentation as well as all of my speaker notes, which is equal to the decoding process. When all content was approved and adapted to ensure no incorrect translations the message was sent. When I say the message was sent I mean this was a live presentation between myself and what I believed to be the administrators for this hospital. Since I was presenting live from Philadelphia to participants in China, there was no room for ad-libbing or improve because there was someone across the world interpreting my presentation simultaneously. This required me to stay on script and to inform when to move to the next slide. There was a Q&A portion of the presentation that also required the real time translation back and forth, so additional encoding and decoding occurred in real time as well. I was informed the day before the presentation the Minister of Health would be in attendance for my presentation and I was coached on how to respectfully acknowledge and address this high ranking official. I know the presentation went well because I was told I received a standing ovation. What I did not realize until the end of my presentation was that there were over 200 people in attendance for my presentation from many healthcare institutions in China. I thought I was just presenting to a handful of investors who were interested in building this hospital.
My experience was a very positive experience because we had many months to prepare and work on this presentation. In global organizations there is not the luxury of having all that time to prepare. This is why learning about the different language skills, cultures, values, social norms, attitudes, stereotypes roles and the social organization of the culture is important knowledge to have when you have to communicate globally in more real time situations (Moran, Abramson, Moran, 2014). This is what I was coached to do when addressing the Chinese Minister of Health. To communicate without taking these key items identified by Moran, et. el, will lead to frustration and misunderstandings.
As complicated as global communications are there are some traits that are universal across all countries that can assist leaders with their global communications. Moran, Abramson & Moran explained how all “people have the same set of personality dimensions across cultures that the effects are independent of culture“(pg. 35, 2014). So instead of assuming that because of modern technologies and the ease of communication types that communication quality has improved if those who are communicating do not have the right skills as described above their quality of their communication will not improve (Mayer, 2010).
Mayer, M. (2010). Global communications—what does it mean in today’s business? Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2010—North America, Washington, DC. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute. Retrieved from
Moran, R., Abramson, N.R., Moran, S., (2014). Managing Cultural Differences, Ninth Edition. Rutledge, New Your, NY
Weedmark, D., June 2018. A Definition of Global Communication, Bizfluent retrieved from https://bizfluent.com/facts-7601794-definition-global-communication.html
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