Beating the “Upward Communication Data Loss” Problem: Revised 20th June, 2020.

– Ensuring The Decision-maker get ALL the information –

An absent boss

One of the greatest problems we can have is business is to ensure that we reduce the possibility of “Upward communication data loss”!

All too often, it appears that the senior managers that we expected to have in our audience are unable to attend so we have to make the presentation to (or negotiate with) second or third level managers who will be expected to pass the information upwards.

Many people naively believe that the message that they deliver during the communicative activity – whatever it may be – will be faithfully reproduced 100% by the person or persons delivering our “message” to the higher level directors or decision makers.

However, it is recognized that memory is based largely on reconstruction of the event and can frequently be incorrect or distorted. This is especially true when a large quantity of detailed information has been presented and nothing has been used to ensure that the key elements are salient (or prominent) and therefore memorable.

upward data loss ENG

A study that we did a few years ago indicated that possibly up to 60% of the information communicated upwards during a negotiation was lost in upward transmission to a missing superior. We obtained similar results with presentation material.

Briefly, the method we used in the study was to contact members of the audience soon after the activity and asked them to identify the key take-away points from the session that they passed upwards. This was then compared to the elements considered important by the negotiator / presenter. The respondents were guaranteed anonymity and that their responses would not be cited as the reason for any remedial action taken.

The results indicated that there was often a great difference between the information considered vital / important that the comm by

sad fact is that frequently there are many factors that can influence this upward communication so it is necessary to consider the following questions:
– Memory: How can we be sure that the person has remembered correctly all of the relevant information or have they consciously or subconsciously filtered some of it out?
– Interest: How can we be sure that the person was sufficiently interested in our presentation to pay attention all the time or at least during the key moments?
– Relevance: How can we be sure that the person is aware of the relevance and importance of all our input to the organization and/or the absent senior manager(s)?
– Motivation: How can we be sure that the person has sufficient motivation to communicate all the information upwards in a clear, concise, structured manner which is a true representation of our communication?
– Timing: If there is a time lag between the end of the meeting and the presentation of the data to the absent boss, the quality and quantity of the information remembered and communicated rapidly decreases.

Some of the other factors could include:
– Personal perception of the presenter (professionalism, honesty, knowledge of topic, etc)
– Is the employee doing the upward communicator “For” or “Against” the proposal.
– Other environmental factors (both internal & external): Did they miss any part of the presentation?
– Hidden agendas: Is it possible that they are against you, your organization, or feels that they have not been consulted about the topic, etc?

These elements are some of the factors that influence the upward flow of communication. However, there are various techniques that we can use to increase the possibilities that 100% of our message(s) arrive intact to the appropriate decision-maker:

1. Ensure that our communication (presentation, negotiation, seminar / workshop, etc) is specifically designed to cover the needs, wants and lacks of our target audience in a clear, concise and honest manner. This should be stated at the very start of the presentation – especially in cultures where Deductive Reasoning is the preferred thinking style.

2. After each Negotiation session, write and send a “Memo of Understanding” with the following content:

  • The individual interests of each party discussed and understoood by both sides.
  • The shared interests of the parties involved.
  • Possible areas of agreement identified.
  • Areas pending discussion.
  • Objective criteria most relevant to the discussion identified and discussed.
  • Any Creative options presented / discussed.

3. In the PESENTATION context, supply detailed support documents at the end of the meeting.
They should:
– Be paper-based.
– Be in a previously prepared folder.
– Contain all of the appropriate information and copies of the slides used and include additional support data if necessary, etc.

When you distribute previously prepared folders to the audience (always after the session), this serves many useful purposes:
– A sign of your professionalism.
– Provides the basis for a Q & A session.
– When people receive a folder with paper material in it, the Kinaesthetic elements of the brain are activated and the folder becomes psychologically connected with the person who gave it to them, the context, and a range of other factors. If the material inside the folder contains data, it is processed by the auditive part of the brain and the visual images / graphs will be processed by the visual part of the brain.
– It permits the presenter to highlight key messages with post-it notes or other indicators of importance.
– The presenter is capitalizing on the Recency Effect which states that the last information or event is that which is remember most clearly. (Last in – first out!).

In negotiations, the “Yesable Proposal” document proposed in “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In” by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury.” also provides an excellent structure to use.

Possible the least effective way to reinforce memory (or learning) is to give attendees material in a pen drive or to tell them that “I’ll email you the data!” It appears that frequently, the material is not sent when promised or not downloaded, printed or studied later. Many of our clients indicate that they generally give their children the pen drives to use as they see fit.

It appears logical to never assume that your presentation or communication has reached an absent decision-maker. However, A study published by the ASTD (as was) many years ago indicated that a very high number of managers actually read support documents from presentations, etc., when travelling on business. This re-reading of the material is another example of a meaningful repetition which reinforces both you as communicator and your message.

In summary, If you don’t consider the possible loss of upward bound information to absent decision makers, be prepared for the consequences.

All constructive feedback would be gratefully received.
© Ian Brownlee, M.Ed (T.E.O.), M.Ed(T&D), MNLP, MTNLP., Madrid, Spain, May, 2016 updated 22nd JUNE, 2020

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About ianbrownlee

Ian Brownlee, the founder of Brownlee & Associates has been actively involved in the field of interpersonal & transcultural communication since 1977. He has worked in universities and companies in the following countries: Laos, Thailand, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, France, Italy, England, The United States of America & Spain, as a teacher, university lecturer, trainer, researcher & consultant. In addition, his experience in living in these countries, and studying the language & communication and interaction styles of each has aided him in reaching a real understanding of intercultural and transcultural differences and how to resolve them. Ian Brownlee has various masters degrees from British Universities: One in Linguistics & Teaching English Overseas from Manchester University, one in Training & Development with a specialization in the area of Communication and Adult learning awarded by the University of Sheffield. He has also gained professional qualifications in Psychotherapy & Hypnotherapy from various professional organizations. During his university career he has also studied elements of Sociology, Organizational psychology, Educational psychology, Psycholinguistics and Kinesics. He is a licensed Practitioner, Master Practitioner, and Master Trainer in NLP. as well as being a trainer in Ericksonian Hypnosis. He is a member of a wide range of professional organizations involved in Training, Applied Psychology, Hypnotherapy & Ericksonian Hypnosis, Psychotherapy, Interpersonal Communication & Cross-cultural Communication. He is also recognized by the Program on Negotiation, Harvard University, as a Negotiation Skills Trainer & Mediator and has been a collaborator on various projects with the program, and as such is in great demand as a negotiation consultant for some of the largest multinationals operating worldwide. His wide experience gained in multinational organizations in positions such as Director of Training, Communications Consultant and Negotiator / Mediator has helped many people to learn and apply new methods of negotiating skills and advanced communication techniques both in their private and professional lives. He has published various articles & books related to the field of interpersonal communication and he is the author of all the courses taught by Brownlee & Associates. He has lived and worked in Spain since 1985, initially as a trainer / Special Assistant in a multinational pharmaceutical company and then as the Training Manager for a multinational company involved in Clinical Analysis & Nuclear Medicine. Brownlee & Associates was formed in 1991 and currently has a small, highly-trained staff. While based in Madrid, courses are given world-wide either in English or Spanish. Brownlee & Associates currently work with leading international companies in the areas of pharmaceuticals , Information systems, luxury products, food & beverages, etc.
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