Communicating From Earth to Mars: Averting Communication Disasters

In 1999 the Mars Climate Orbiter burned up as it entered the Martian atmosphere after $125 million spent in development and nine months of travel.

The cause? A lapse in communication.

It all came crashing down because the navigation team and the designers of the spacecraft weren’t communicating essential information in a common language; one used English measurements and the other used metric to relay vital data.

“It is very difficult for me to imagine how such a fundamental, basic discrepancy could have remained in the system for so long,” John Pike, Space Policy Director at the Federation of American Scientists, said about the incident in a Los Angeles Times article. While it may be hard to imagine, it happens all the time to organizations around the world and employees at every level. The good news is such an enormous, costly communication disaster can be easily averted.

It starts by making sure information is continuously and precisely conveyed to all involved in a project, both within and between teams. In a recent Harvard Business Review blog post, Georgia Everse reminds leaders that “there is no such thing as over-communication.” She urges them to avoid jargon, build a common language, and “be explicit about using terminology that resonates with everyone in the organization.”

In Personality Style at Work, Kate Ward suggests that in order to convey your message clearly and accurately one should avoid sweeping generalizations and check for understanding to make sure the message was understood in the way it was intended. Following such simple steps can keep the lines of communication open and prevent chaos in the future.

HRDQ’s What’s Your Communication Style can help identify communication problems and improve communication skills, BEFORE they result in the crash landing of a promising project.

Avert a communication disaster and see how HRDQ can help today!

Read more about Kate Ward’s advice!

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