Usually communication flows with the hierarchy structure of the company, e.g. from CEO to director to deputy director to manager to assistant manager, etc. Is this necessarily how communication should flow? With an understanding that communication needs to be orderly structured.
The type of communication structure in place has an influence on the production speed. Closing or opening lines of communication will determine the pace of production.
One structure can be ideal for a company, a division or just project. You need to know which structure will suit your conditions.
A communications structure can be seen as a pattern that directs who talks to who in the company. In the 1950’s Bavelas and Leavitt, sociologists researched communication structures.
The aim was to find the impact a structures has on problem-solving and production. These five communication structures are still relevant to today’s communication.
1. Chain/line Structure
Communicators are positioned in a line or chain. Person 1 communicates with person 2, 2 with 3, 3 with 4 and 4 with 5. The communicators are only linked to the person next to them.
Communication is organised, however information may be misinterpreted, late or not reach the destination. I would recommend this structure for relaxed companies/situation where there is no deadline. To avoid glitches, use electronic channels as backed up.
2. Y Structure
It resembles the letter Y, person 1 and 2 on top can communicate with person 3. Person 3 is able to communicate with 4 who has connections with 5. Person 1 and 2 are not linked. The two will only know what 3 communicates. 3 has the advantage of most information since he can communicate with 4 who has information from 5.
In companies where communication is a priority this structure will not work. Time is wasted, and some might not receive the information. It however will function well where confidentiality is a priority.
3. Star Structure
Person 1 is at the centre, he can communicate with person 2, 3, 4, and 5 who have a direct link to him. This structure will be ideal for managers who give instructions to individual subordinates. For groups work this doesn’t work since person 2, 3, 4 and 5 are not linked.
4. Circle Structure
There is no figure of authority, unfortunately things can go wrong. It is however ideal for peer and micromanagement communication. Each person is linked to two people on their sides. Person 1 is linked to 2 and 5, 2 is linked to 1 and 3, 3 communicates with 2 and 4, while 4 interacts with 3 and 5. This will work well combined with another structure, e.g. the star.
5. All-Channel Structure
This structure will do well during crisis situations where all are clear of their role. The lines are open to all, there is no limitations. This quickens the flow of communication. What is negative is that there is no authority figure.