BC 620 Dr. Linda McJannet Spring, 1994 Graduate Ctr. 93 891-2507 (off) M, Th 3:35-5:00, 492-8180 (home) W 4:30-5:30 & by appointment
Texts: Beth Neman and Sandra Smythe, Writing Effectively in
Business. Harper Collins, 1992. (WEB) Includes the "Painless Usage Guide" (PUG) Weymouth Steel Corporation (HBS case--at Bookstore) Oxford Energy (HBS case--at Bookstore) Selected handouts and materials on reserve--see syllabus. Cases marked MC are found in Micheli et al., Managerial Communication.
Objectives: The purpose of this course is to increase your effectiveness as a manager by providing opportunities to develop, practice, and reflect upon your ability to communicate with people inside and outside an organization. The course will introduce aspects of rhetoric and communication theory relevant to managerial work, but the emphasis is on practice and reflection in both classroom and real-life settings. In particular, the course aims to encourage an understanding of communication as a two-way process designed to create a common understanding and elicit the desired action or response. At the end of the course, you should have enhanced awareness and confidence about how to generate written and oral communications with effective argumentation, structure, style, and tone.
Structure: The centerpiece of the course will be a field project you choose to pursue, either as part of a group or individually. If you are working full- or part-time, you may be able to adapt one of your current assignments. As we move through the textbook material and exercises, you will be asked to generate information or create a document you are likely to need in the course of your field project. To supplement work in conjunction with your project, some assignments will be based on short cases.
Requirements and Grading: Performance will be evaluated as follows:
Memo 1 10% Memo 2 15% Memo 3 (Midterm) 15% Progress report (oral) 5% Letter 1 10% Final Presentation and Report 25% Class participation 20%
Regular attendance is expected; please notify me if you foresee an unavoidable absence. Normally, only one non-illness related absence can be excused. Unexcused absences will adversely affect your participation grade, one step per absence (e.g., 3.3-3.0).
Writing Assignments: The first two writing assignments will emphasize the concepts and techniques addressed in part I of WEB. You will receive detailed comments and a grade on initial submission. If you wish, you may revise memos one and two; the original versions and revisions will be averaged for your grade for that assignment. (If you are satisfied with your initial grade you need not revise.) Memo three counts as a midterm and may not be revised. The short report will be submitted in draft form for comments (but no grade); the final version will receive a grade.
Oral exercises: The course is concerned with principles of communication that apply to both oral and written modes. Most graded assignments are in memo or letter form so that you can "deliver" and I can evaluate your analysis and execution outside of class time. Class participation, however, will require oral analysis of communication strategies. In roleplays, you will be asked to put yourself in another manager's shoes to see how various constituencies in the case might react to a given approach (content, style, and tone). The focus will be on what you and the class can learn from the role-play, not on the individual's or group's skills in oral delivery per se.
One class will be devoted to assessing a videotape of an actual presentation by managers and others in the Oxford Energy case.
Group Presentation: Toward the end of the course, you will probably be part of a group presentation of your field project (see accompanying assignment sheet). One class period will be devoted to preparation, but you should expect to meet once or twice out of class to develop and rehearse your presentation. In this assignment you will be evaluated on everything: content (analysis, argumentation), structure, style, tone, and oral delivery.
Schedule of Assignments and Activities
Note: in the event of a snow cancellation, please submit written assignments to my office (slip them under the door), and prepare the next week as indicated on the syllabus. Necessary adjustments will be worked out in the next class.
1/19 Introduction to the course: Communication WEB Ch. 1-2.A and managerial work (1-44)
Resource: Henry Mintzberg, "The Manager's Job: Folklore and Fact," HBR (March-April, 1990), 163-176.
Principles of Effective Business Writing: Jim Greene's memo (pp. 9-12)
1/26 Field Project--Preliminary Investigations Field Project
Review list of possible projects; talk with
classmates; attend Cambridge Hospital session
(below) or consult with instructor or Service
Learning liaisons (Amy or Mark).
Schedule meetings on-site.
Orientation at Cambridge Hospital 3:30-5:00 PM (Transportation available)
Effective Listening Staley and Staley, Ch. 6 Practice effective listening as you interview (on reserve)
people in connection with potential projects.
2/2 Listening, cont'd. Review Ch. 6
Phatic, Cathartic, Informative, and Persuasive above Communication
Leadership Styles and Group Dynamics Staley and Staley, Ch. 9 What roles do you tend to take in groups? 317-358 (on reserve)
Exercise: fill out the Leadership Style Inventory (p. 352)
2/9 Effective Memos: WEB Ch. 6
A project proposal Memo 1 due with tentative timetable for major tasks.
Individual review: Ch. 2.B (47-56, esp. 52)
Text formatting: Organization by WEB Ch. 3B Design (Where do WEB and Gribbons Gribbons disagree? Follow Gribbons in your memo.) Handout
2/16 Recommendation Memos WEB Ch. 7
Structural components; turning "data" into "information"; organizational patterns
Review Session Memo 1
2/23 Case Application McGregor's (MC)
Which of McGregor's arguments Memo 2 due are most likely to convince the buyers and executives. How should he structure them? Why? What recommendations would improve McGregor's plan? Or should he forget it and focus on other issues?
3/2 Recommendation memos, cont'd. Weymouth Steel
Choosing a Communication strategy
Who is more persuasive to you, Amory or Bergson? Why?
Will Harrison be convinced by either? Why or why not? What special issues of timing arise in communicating about the two issues in this case?
Review Session Memo 2
3/16 Midterm Application Weymouth Steel
How should Weymouth announce the news? Memo 3 due
Review of company's actual communications
3/23 Effective Presentations and WEB Ch. 15.A-B Handling Questions 403-429 Assessing a presentation Oxford Energy case and video
3/30 Interim Presentations
Progress Reports on Field Projects
Prepare a brief presentation in which you report on your progress to date and reflect on your process (successes, failures, continuing challenges).
Style, Tone, and Empathy WEB Ch. 4 "Keeping Your Eye on the Ball" 80-103 Dotsworth Press (MC)
4/6 Style, Tone, and Empathy, cont'd
Draft a challenging letter you have to Letter 1 due (or would like to send) for your field project or other endeavor, according to the strategies and principles discussed in Ch. 4.
Researching and Writing Short Reports WEB Chs. 8 & 9
4/13 Group Meetings to Prepare for Group Presentation
Identify three resources you have used or Draft report will use for your final project presentation. due. Consult and evaluate them as indicated in steps 2-8, p. 233. Submit your bibliography and evaluation along with a draft of your report.
Review Session Letter 1.
4/20 Group Presentations
4/27 Group Presentations Final Reports Due
5/4 Group Presentations
Field Project Overview
Assignment: Turn an obligation into an opportunity.
As indicated on the syllabus, several assignments in this course will be geared to a field project which you propose and I approve. The field project will introduce a greater measure of realism into your assignments and will provide external and lasting measures of your kill as a communicator. When the project is over, you will have had valuable experience in a broad range of communication situations and an opportunity to reflect with others on that experience. In addition, ideally, you will also have a significant accomplishment to add to your portfolio.
A project may be undertaken by a team (four students seems an ideal size) or by students working individually or in pairs. While we probably cannot accommodate twenty or more individual projects, my aim is to give you flexibility to choose a worthwhile and challenging project that you can complete successfully in the time allowed.
1. Consider the attached list of possible projects. Do some preliminary investigation into the project and find out who else in the class might be interested. The first two weeks of the course, your main task will be to find out enough about the possible projects to commit yourself to one of them.
2. If none of the suggested projects seems right for you, construct a comparable project based on your own interests, contacts, or work-related obligations. Pursue something of interest that you haven't had time to do, fill a need, make something happen.
3. In the course of completing the project, you will produce the following documents or oral communications (detailed assignments will be provided for each):
2/9 A project proposal (Memo 1 on the syllabus)
3/23 An interim presentation or progress report (oral)
4/6 A bibliography and evaluation of sources consulted 4/13 Draft of final report 4/20 Final presentation and written report -5/4 A Communication Log and Reflections on Process
4. Communication Log: To document your efforts and to provide a record for later reflection, each member of the group should keep a log of all communications related to the project: group meetings, phone calls, e-mail, letters, etc. In addition to noting the day, time, topic or purpose, and the participants, append the document (if a formal written one), and jot down your reflections on the efficacy of the communication (E. g., "Productive meeting--good synergy. We solved the problem of focus," or "A waste of time; Mr/Ms. X wasn't prepared to see us--we should have sent an agenda or list of questions," or "I don't think we got our concerns across as clearly as we wished."
At the end of the semester, each member of the group will be asked to submit his or her log and a page or two of "reflections on process." What did you learn or observe about your own communication skills in pursuing this project? about communicating in in organizations? What did you learn from the skills of your colleagues and external contacts? What was your greatest success? What could you or the group have done more effectively?
Venues: Cambridge Hospital, Middlesex Human Services Agency, Project Place, and elsewhere. I've circled the projects that seemed most suited to this class (as opposed to BC classes in Graphic Design or Video). The last page has a key to the agency abbreviations.
For more information about these possibilities, contact Amy Kenworthy, 891-2877, or Mark Sorensen, 642-7591.
2. Media Project: Public Relations/Community Outreach
A Bentley alumnus, Bernie Buchalter, would welcome a group of students to help him plan a series of 30-minute cable TV shows that would showcase his firm, Business Consulting Services, and provide interesting programming for his community. Activities would include brainstorming suitable formats, topics, guests, etc. One idea Bernie and I discussed was a panel of "experts" on business education (including businesspeople, a government representative, and a student, perhaps one of you). The programs would be aired on Channel 30 in the Marlborough area. If you get as far as producing a show, we would hope to see the video in class.
Contact: Bernie Buchalter, President, Business Consulting Services
(508) 480-8770 (Initial expression of interest should be to me.)
3. Consulting Project: Small business development
Provide some consulting services to Steve Megradasian, CEO of Corporate Environmental Advisors (CEA). The firm specializes in environmental surveys known as "21-E Analyses"; these surveys are required when commercial property changes hands. The company has recently become profitable. How might it now grow and increase its customer base? How should it market its services? Probable activities would include analyzing data on the company and its history, interviewing Mr. Megradasian, doing further research and analysis, presenting your recommendations to him (either on-site or in the classroom).
Contact: Bernie Buchalter, President, Business Consulting Services
(508) 480-8770 (Initial expression of interest should be to me.)
4. Any project you or your group propose and I approve.
Field Project: Short Report
This assignment asks you to draw upon the skills and concepts of the course to present clearly and persuasively the outcome of your project. It also allows you to practice the structure, style, and tone of an effective short report. Address your report to the person with whom you have been working and any other appropriate audiences (other managers, the board, etc.). Your group presentation may be addressed to the same person(s), or to the class, depending on the circumstances. (See oral presentation assignment.)
The written report will be based on the group's effort and ideas, but it will be written and graded individually. Please model your written report on the persuasive structure illustrated towards the bottom of p. 53 of MC (copy attached): Introduction, Summary of Recommendations, followed by one or more sections of rationale (keyed by a heading to each of your recommendations). The Introduction should orient the reader and prepare the ground, as necessary, for your recommendations. The Summary of Recommendations should summarize your recommendations, one sentence each (no discussion). Using informative headings for the sections that follow, explain and defend your recommendations, one at a time. You may add a conclusion or other final section if you feel you need one. Supply attachments as needed, but the body of the report must contain the data and argumentation necessary to make your recommendations clear and persuasive. Transmit your report with a brief cover memo that could serve as an informative or descriptive abstract (one paragraph) of your report. (See handout on the difference between informative and descriptive abstracts.) The report itself should not have a "memo heading"; give it a brief title.
Length: Report body, 3 pp. single-spaced, maximum, not counting attachments or the cover memo.
Grading: A draft of your report is due 4/13 for suggestions re: format, structure, argumentation, and style; the draft will not be graded. The more complete the draft, the more helpful my comments can be, but you are, of course, responsible for the excellence of the final document. The final report is due on 4/27. It will count 15% of your final grade.