After many years of blogging, and consistent with my desire to move toward retirement, we have ended the Insights blog. Thanks to Doug Bedell for his years of blog support.

Good Communication Matters Most

Posted on July 6, 2012
Filed Under Business, Communication, Technology | Leave a Comment

What does it take to get on in the world if you’re a technically inclined person? Why, knowledge of your theories, equipment and processes – that should be obvious, shouldn’t it? Well yes, but it’s not the heart of the question. There lies something else – the ability to relate well to others and to communicate well. (It’s like a dentist who does excellent root canal work but neglects to explain to the patient beforehand what the cost will be and why.)

Dennis Owen and myself at Encore Technical Resources have known that good relational communication matters most for some time, even before our years of working together at the post-accident Three Mile Island Unit 2. (Dennis was a recovery engineer and I was the communication manager.)

And here’s a Penn State instructor emphasizing anew the primacy of good communication in technical settings. Myron Hartman teaches biomedical engineering technology. He gives his third semester students a questionnaire that asks them   to rank the skills an entry level technician needs.

He lists them as “troubleshooting electronic components, computer skills, people skills (verbal), communication skills (writing), equipment function and operation, and clinical application of medical equipment.”

“For the past 11 years,” Hartman notes,  “it has been consistent from one class to the next on how the students rank the skills. The technical skills are always rated at the top and the communication at the bottom of the ranking. I use this information over the next two semesters to change the student’s perception of what I believe the top skills should be.”

Bless him! There’s the process, and then there’s a bigger, broader institutional interest that’s always present. The process is served by technical skills, the institutional interest by good conduct and effective communication.

“One of the questions I always ask the guest presenters,” Hartman notes, “is what they think are the top skills needed by BMETs. In almost all cases, the response is communication and people skills…. So the challenge now for me is how to change my students’ perception, give them the communication and people skills and also provide the technical skills.”

That’s the right order, actually, for any role in life. A mix of communication and technical skills is the essence of ENCORE. The tagline on our home page – “Engineering Plus Effective Communication” – has been with us since Day One – a quarter of a century this year.  – Doug Bedell



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