Effective communication is vital to success

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- On March 3, 1847, Alexander Graham Bell was born. He is credited with inventing the telephone.

On March 10, 2008, the 30th Space Communications Squadron cut the ribbon for the Combat Information Transport System, or CITS. It is a $27 million fiber optic infrastructure installation funded by Air Force Space Command. CITS is a Synchronous Optical Network, or SONET, that will increase bandwidth capability 16 fold. The installation project included the following: 170 miles of additional cable, 235,500 feet of trench work, 134,400 feet of asphalt repair, 59,100 feet of conduit installation and 857,860 feet of fiber cable installed.

The concept of clear communications is vital to the success of operations at Vandenberg. While the tools we use to communicate have evolved through the use of technology, the basics of communication have not changed.

Both the telephone and the CITS are tools we can use to communicate. Effective communication is a vital ingredient of organizational success. How you structure your communication, both in the messages you send and the feedback you receive, are the most important factors in your work performance. It is essential we don't forget how to communicate well.

Being a successful Airman in today's Air Force requires each of us to be a Strategic Airman, to be a good Wingman, and to foster a Culture of Excellence. All three facets require effective communication. Being a Strategic Airman means we need to be able to communicate a vision and intent that allows those we work with to understand how what each of us does contributes to the bigger picture. It is impossible to be a Wingman if you don't know what someone else needs when they communicate it to us. Finally, the quest for excellence requires us to understand what excellence is and to communicate that expectation to everyone involved in the enterprise.

What are the elements of effective communication? Basically, you need to consider the audience, the medium, and the message. First, you must understand your audience. Any effective exchange between two people or groups requires an understanding of both the individuals within the group, how that group thinks, and sensitivity to organizational context. Accounting for the "operating environment" is critical to achieving understanding and credibility. Second, the means of communication needs to be consistent with the receiver to ensure he or she gets the intended message. For some communication, e-mail will work; other times a telephone call or face-to-face meeting is required. Direct interaction allows the sender to verify the receiver has actually received the message. Meetings are sometimes described as unfruitful, yet they are often a necessary communication medium. Last, but not least, the message is obviously at the heart of all communication. What are you trying to pass on? Information? A tasking? Or perhaps it's just casual conversation? If you keep your message at the forefront of your communication efforts, you're already on the road to a successful dialogue.

Through our Air Force careers and beyond, the one constant, and key to our success as Airmen, will be effective communication. We must all continue our efforts to improve our communications skills. Remember that the success of the mission or the well being of our fellow Airmen depends on our ability to communicate, and communicate well.