Editorial: Communication breakdown

Editorial: Communication breakdown


How many times have we heard a newly-appointed channel manager announce that establishing clear lines of communication would be a top priority? While the phrase has become something of a mantra for anybody wanting to get off on the right foot in a new executive role, it should not be forgotten that there is a very good reason why this is the case. Good communications — whether with colleagues, customers or business partners — are an essential part of best practice for any business. When they break down, as we have seen time and time again, trouble is never very far away.

As reported on the front page of ARN this week, Sydney-based reseller Computer Distributors Australia (CDA) has landed in hot water with the Department of Fair Trading (DFT), which took the unusual step of warning consumers to give the company a wide berth after receiving more than 60 complaints from unhappy customers.

It is highly unlikely that any of the people who felt strongly enough to contact the DFT did so without first seeking a resolution from the reseller. It takes a pretty high level of frustration, caused either by a lack of response or an inadequate one, for most people to register a complaint through official channels. Among other claims, details released by a ministerial spokesperson suggested CDA had been guilty of poor communication with its customers. This undoubtedly played a significant part in creating the damaging naming and shaming situation that has developed.

Communicating with your colleagues is just as important as doing so with your customers. This applies no matter how large or small your company and regardless of how far up the ladder you are within an organisation — something that was highlighted last week when Telstra chairman, Bob Mansfield, was forced to walk the plank after communications broke down within the boardroom. Speculation is rife that he lost the backing of his fellow board members after talking to the Prime Minister about Telstra plans to launch a bid to acquire the Fairfax newspaper group. This is believed to have been backed by Howard but went down like a lead balloon with the media, the Opposition and the majority of board members, who were thought to be less than happy that Mansfield had approached the PM without first consulting them. This made Mansfield’s position untenable. It will be interesting to see if it is the final straw for the telco’s CEO, Dr Ziggy Switkowski, who was also thought to support the proposed takeover bid.

Elsewhere in telco land, Comindico CEO, John Stuckey, took a holiday that turned out to be a permanent one when his contract renewal talks broke down. While the chairman, Barry Wheeler, was eager to stress that Stuckey’s departure was an amicable one, and in no way related to the company’s decision to axe 36 staff, it is difficult to accept that the two were a merely a coincidence. After all, Wheeler said the employees had been shown the door to increase efficiency because company growth had led to the duplication of some roles. This is another example of internal systems not working because of a communications failure and the buck for such a breakdown would surely have stopped with Stuckey. What are your thoughts?

Brian Corrigan is Editor of ARN. Reach him at

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