Noise: The Communication Crisis in Corporate America

The eleventh most famous movie quote of all time comes from the 1967 film “Cool Hand Luke.” In that scene, the prison warden clobbers prisoner Luke (Paul Newman) with a billy club and sends him tumbling into a ditch. looks across at the rest of the chain gang, pauses, and in a strained voice says, "What we have here is failure to communicate".

Corporate America has a similar problem—it’s losing the battle for people’s attention.

Like cool hand Luke, most companies are being severely punished. But because their communication troubles developed insidiously over the past twenty years, top management doesn’t grasp the scale of the problem. In executives’ defense, the symptoms of this breakdown are subtle and indirect, because communication problems never remain just communication problems. In this case, the real damage shows up operationally

Companies are getting beat up—clobbered—by messaging failures that confuse priorities, interfere with alignment, and muddy the brand. Weak and clumsy communications also waste time, causing pervasive slippages in productivity. People can’t even be held properly accountable because of the problems that permeate the overall communication process ...