It’s Not Nagging: Why Persistent, Redundant Communication Works

Managers who inundate their teams with the same messages, over and over, via multiple media, need not feel bad about their persistence. In fact, this redundant communication works to get projects completed quickly, according to new research by Harvard Business School professor Tsedal B. Neeley and Northwestern University's Paul M. Leonardi and Elizabeth M. Gerber.
by Kim Girard

It's the rare child who follows a parent's order to do an unpleasant task the first time she's asked. Upon second request, she might listen, but again ignore the prod. It's often the third time, a more urgent "Brush your teeth, now," that does the trick.

Most parents understand that redundant communication, coupled with an escalating sense of urgency, is integral to communicating because it gets the job done. New research shows that getting employees to listen up and deliver isn't so different.

“Those without power were much more strategic, much more thoughtful about greasing the wheel”

In a paper forthcoming in Organization Science, professor Tsedal B. Neeley and coauthors delve into why many managers tend to send the same message, over and over, via multiple media to team members. At first blush, this strategy may sound like nagging or a waste of time. But as it turns out, asking multiple times gets results.

Titled "How Managers Use Multiple Media: Discrepant Events, Power, and Timing in Redundant Communication," Neeley and Northwestern University's Paul M. Leonardi and Elizabeth M. Gerber found that managers who are deliberately redundant as communicators move their projects forward more quickly and smoothly than those who are not.

Neeley's research evolved out of an ethnography of managers' use of technology used to persuade their team members to meet their deliverables on time and on budget. To do so, managers were engaging in redundant communication.

"We started to notice very quickly that some project managers were sending the same message three or four times using different media," she says, citing an example of a manager speaking to an employee face-to-face, then sending her an e-mail and later a text message about the same thing.

Research showed that asking employees to do something multiple times, whether in person or via technology, is especially common for managers who are under intense pressure to finish particular projects.

Considering how busy most managers are and the fact that their employees are inundated with information daily, the repeated communications seemed puzzling to Neeley, at least at first.

The researchers moved forward to investigate what sort of events triggered managers to deploy multiple messages. They studied the communication patterns of 13 project managers in six companies across three industries (computing, telecommunications, and health care) by shadowing them at their jobs. The team recorded every activity in the managers' workday, collecting a total of 256 hours' worth of observations.

"As we analyzed data we started to see differences in strategies and intentions depending on whether the manager had power," Neeley says. A story started to come together.

Managing Without Power

Power, it turns out, plays a big role in how managers communicate with employees when they are under pressure.

The research showed that 21 percent of project managers with no direct power over team members used redundant communication, compared to 12 percent of managers with direct authority. And 54 percent of managers without direct power combined an instant communication (via IM or a phone call) with a delayed communication (e-mail), compared to 21 percent of managers with power.

A lack of direct power is common in companies today, Neeley says, because so many people work on teams that form and disband on a project-by-project basis. Yet team leaders are still on the hook to achieve their business imperatives despite this absence of authority.

“People are like, 'Oh, my gosh, there is a name to what I do. I do this all day'”

While managers with power did use e-mail, the same sense of urgency and persuasion wasn't there in the follow-up, the researchers found. These managers typically followed up with just a single communication, sending more reminders only in desperation.

Managers lacking direct power, however, assumed nothing. They proactively used redundant communication to convince team members that their project was under threat and that they needed to be part of the solution.

"Those without power were much more strategic, much more thoughtful about greasing the wheel" to get buy-in and to reinforce the urgency of the previous communication, Neeley says. "Managers without authority enroll others to make sense of an issue together and go for a solution."

The researchers also determined that clarity in messaging, while not a bad thing, was not the goal for redundant communication. Even if a powerful manager is clear and direct with an employee, it's still the redundancy that counts. "I didn't think we'd find this. I was stunned," Neeley says.

While both sets of managers ultimately got the job done, the managers without power moved the team faster, she says. Managers with power spent more time on damage control after assuming an employee had finished the work. That said, the results didn't show that either group was more successful with deadlines or meeting budget requirements.

Recognizable Behavior

When Neeley shares these findings with managers she says there's a relief among many to learn that all that communicating does work—that they aren't spinning their wheels during the workday.

"People are like, 'Oh, my gosh, there is a name to what I do. I do this all day.' It's a great thing to have [something] this obvious pointed out to them."

The results also provide a concrete strategy for managers in Neeley's Executive Education classes who are struggling with how best to communicate with workers. "This is an actual strategy—a communication persuasion strategy that they will go and try," she says.

In the future, Neeley plans to expand this line of research, perhaps analyzing how managers collaborate with employees globally using technology.

"This is what people use every day to relate, to get work done, to achieve their goals, so it's crucial to understand it."

About the Author

Kim Girard is a writer based in Brookline, Massachusetts.
    • Anonymous
    I am curious as to what the majority (that is the 79%) of managers with no power do as well as the 88% of managers with power do to communicate?
    In addition what is the impact of this redundancy on the team's /project's ability to deliver what is currently needed?
    • Anonymous
    An interesting topic. We just had this issue in my organizaton which resulted in the manager leaving. The employees complained about receiving messages over and over, every day. Employees became disengaged, quit, and productivity lowered along with morale.
    • Anonymous
    If one follows the Jim Collins principal of "First Who Then What" during their recruitment process, then they need only ask once and can rest assured the job will get done.
    • tom edwards
    • library specialist, Johns Hopkins University
    Those who communicate with mutiple media usually have a "direct power" player overseeing (or directing the communicator). This makes redundancy essential, as the "carrot" of reminders is not backed up by the "stick" of do-it-now-or-else.
    • Imelda Bickham
    • Consultant, People Communicating
    Very interesting findings.

    I remember the frustration I used to feel when I was managing Information Technology (IT) departments within organizations. I was convinced that it close to impossible to influence other departments while having no control over them.

    I used to think that the solution was to get someone with power (my boss) to tell the other departments to go with the IT program.

    These findings can be very useful to people in staff departments (IT, HR, Finance, etc.) that are trying to implement organization wide programs from a position of no power.

    • Geoff Godard
    • Mng Dir, DGHG & Assoc. Inc.
    Boy oh boy! What a can of worms this inconsequential factoid could unleash as a tool for incompetent managers to justify days spent emailing and texting!

    Tasks were accomplished in the past without using the coercive power of multiple methods of electronic communication.

    A competent manager should be able to communicate urgency without coercion. A few "how's it going" visits will reinforce urgency, but more importantly, encourage open communication about impediments and alternatives.

    Tasks then tend to solved collaboratively. Works wonders.

    If a manager requires the methods outlined in the article to achieve goals through subordinates, he/she is an ineffective leader, to say nothing about communicator, and probably not suited for the position. Alternatively, the subordinates need to be replaced.
    • Ed Nickle
    • Facility Director, United World Mission
    I found when I am over-communicating results seem to be better. In an organization where I have little or no "power", the only thing I have is influence. There are certain individuals that I have to stay on top of while others, when they say they will do it...they do it. I have worked in both worlds of power and no power...there is little difference in the results.
    • Dr.K.Prabhakar
    • Professor
    I remembered one story told by my Director; He has just arrived at Japan and took up assignment. He had a habit of reminding people what to be done. After two days a manager from organization came and met him and told him that Director's assistant would like to commit suicide. He was shocked and asked the reason for the same. It appears in Japanese culture, if you tell a person to do a task that means it is done. Only if it is not done then it will be reported. You never need to remind a person and resort to redundant communication. However, the posting is not clear about for what kind of tasks you need to remind people? Is it for cognitively challenging tasks or for mundane tasks?
    • datt
    • programmer, radix
    This is absolutely true not only case of Manager but also team leader who always wanted to reach deadline with different communication media. Redundant of communication nothing but reminding the urgency of work.This is really good stuff to read...
    • Kapil Kumar Sopory
    • Company Secretary, SMEC(India) Private Limited
    Power does not necessarily lead to timely actions. As Robin Sharma repeats time and again a Leader Without Title also can shine with excellent results for his focus is the quality of the task in hand. In his own way he can garner support of his group members by repeating what is being done, to what extent it has been done and what
    remains to be done. This is also in a sense a close follow-up using various means of communication for the same matter repeatedly. The receiver may feel a bit annoyed but ultimately he is bound to act and deliver results.
    I am using this strategy to great advantage and do not get annoyed if there is a reaction that I am pestering too much. Resuls matter and this is the aim thus achieved satisfactorily.
    • Oscar
    • Koren
    There has to be a balance on how much nagging takes place. Sending out email every day is far too much. Once a week may be acceptable if the matter is urgent. There is also negotiation that needs to take place beforehand. If an employee was given a deadline to complete a task then the manager may want to know how the employee is progressing with the task. It also depends on the trust that the manager has. Some employees do not need reminders, others do. It is part of the managers function to know which employee will deliver on time and which will not.
    • Joanne Wakelin
    • Principal Consultant, Simpl
    I agree that appropriate use of repetition helps people understand, through the plethora of demands they receive each day, what is important and what is not.

    I also agree that 'spamming people' is not helpful.

    At the end of the day, you have to use your judgement about how much is too much.
    • Lucy Freedman
    • President, Syntax Communication Modeling Corp
    Certainly if the redundancy causes people to quit or complain, it's not being done artfully. Making a clear request with a due date would be an improvement over the way most requests are sent, and then follow-ups can be timely, appropriate, and seen as helpful. It's not just managers who are dealing with overflow. Even the best workers may need some follow-up, which also communicates that the request is sincere.
    • Tom
    • Sr. Project Manager
    Combining a phone call with an email has other benefits. The phone call can be more personal, flexible and interactive. The feedback can be important in clearing up potential miscommunication which can sometimes be detected quickly in tone of voice.

    The email leaves a written, searchable and discoverable record. These all can be useful attributes, in case it is necessary to recreate the timeline of events later, or to escalate an issue to someone who has authority to make changes.

    Several comments above emphasize that managers should not have to do this with subordinates. That's exactly the point. It's the *project managers* with responsibility but no authority, who have to do this. And yes, it can still be taken too far. One quickly learns where this technique is needed.
    • Ramon Rojas
    • Deportation Officer former Leadership Development Officer, DHS/ICE/ERO
    In today's times, with all the distractions, it's not uncommon for there to be redundant communication. As far as leadership positions go, if a person can "effectively" communicate a task s/he may only have to communicate the message less and employees will flow to that person if there's a factor that is not understood. Many managers feel they do not have to relay the reason(s) why certain factors must be involved in a task, or goal. By including the "why", one takes communication to another level, if you will, including creating a mental image of what is needed, why and how. Adults learn best when relaxed (confident), informed, and when communication is correctly executed.
    • Malcolm Wicks
    • Director, SimplePlans
    "Redundant" means superfluous or something that is not required. Is the author suggesting that we change the meaning of the word?
    • Ganesh
    • Associate, Mu Sigma
    This takes 'micro management' to a whole new level. My personal belief is that a competent manager should be able to communicate the task requirements and the associated urgency right at the outset. Individual team members need to be encouraged to take ownership of the tasks and see it to completion. Constant needling would only demoralize the employee as it indicates the manager's lack of confidence (or may be his own insecurity) in his ability to manage time.

    A few 'touch bases' (the number will depend on the overall project timeline) should suffice.

    Constantly following up would mean that you are either an ineffective leader or you probably need to hire a better set of personnel.
    • Mpho Letlape
    • MD, Sasol Inzalo Foundation
    Well, in the months that our church sends out both an email and a text message reminding us congregants about the finances, contributions increase!

    They hate doing that as they know we should know our obligations - and fulfill them. I'm sending them a copy of this article as it will definitely make our church office feel better about 'nagging"
    • Keith
    • Bourne, Appervasive, LLC
    Short term gain, long term loss. In my experience, the people that nag like this in an organization develop a negative reputation overtime. It is especially frustrating for someone that is competent and didn't need the extra prodding. Over time, you tend to avoid working with the person and you certainly wouldn't recommend them or give them kudos in ways that would support their long-term success. While the current project might get done a little faster, I have to believe that longterm this is not a very good strategy for someone that wants to last with continued success at an organization.
    • Paul Nicholas
    • Director, Soul-Chaplain Consultancy
    This is really interesting - thank you.
    Redundancy has an essential role in information theory, and it becomes even more significant in human-human interactions. The redundancy within non-verbal communications - and even an email contains non-verbal elements - is still a relatively unexplored field.

    Our perceptual systems have evolved to constantly seek information in the most subtle ways. Remember how much people once read (often wrongly) into handwriting? Just think how much information is perceived "between the lines", and every human interaction - whatever the medium and however many the repetitions - has elements both real and imagined "between the lines".
    • Ned McGrath
    • Management Consultant, global consultancy
    OK...We're always looking for "silver bullets", but the research as described doesn't even come close...It concerns me greatly that so many variables were allowed to operate simultaneously (and out of control) in this study, while so few potential alternate conclusions were explored.

    As described, the managers in the study seem to have been communicating in desperation and out of a singular need: Get someone to DO something. If that's accurate, the direction of the research ignores a constellation of factors related to not only the manager (i.e. message sender) but also to the targeted employees and to the relationships between them AND the motivational factors that underlie their respective behaviors.

    Repetition of a directive (i.e. seeking to generate a behavioral response from the recipient of the message) communication in the absence of answering the questions "Why am I spending so much energy communicating this message?" and "Why should you care?", ignores a basic tenet of human behavior wherein the recipients of the message are saying to themselves, "What's the big deal??"

    I'd be most interested in seeing these and other researchers explore further the roots of how best to stimulate members of organizations -- both leaders and individual contributors -- to think more strategically and to communicate more effectively.

    From an organizational leadership perspective, one potential thread to pursue would be: What can leaders do to engage "others to make sense of an issue together and go for a solution"?
    • Petr Kadlec
    • project manager and trainer, PKL
    Surprising findings, in fact managers with no direct power replace it by communication pressure. Fully agree with Geoff Godard, flooding people with redundant messages, disturbing them and creating this kind of pressure can never replace real management interaction in projects - be it formal, informal, brief or detailed, verbal or pictorial, but as much as possible direct and personal.
    This is what also from the neuroscience point of view (our brain preferences) contributes to make people feel motivated, focused and at the end effective.
    • Elena
    • Business Communications instructor, Master Programs, Graduate School of Management SPbSU, Russia
    An interesting article confirming the common sense for using redundant messages in lieu of power of stick motivation. If we think across cultures, in many places with less result orientation (incl. Russian business culture) redundancy in communication is less tolerated and often brings big irritation and a question : do you think I have a memory lapse or I am stupid? This is the culture of high context communication, so a lot of space for guessing, "thinking by yourself" is left. Even a regular for US communication culture, very basic "follow up" after a meeting or discussion is out of tradition. "Redundancy" level is much lower than in US. Even a call about a project stage status is redundant. The thinking type is such that the person doing the work will report only after the whole project is completed, and may get irritated if contacted before the completion. The worst thing is when one organ
    ization has a mixture of several cultures, and people representing them may clash when depending on each other in a project(s).
    • Anonymous
    I believe using the right media with right timing gives you the result. Redundant communication acts as reminders.
    • Anonymous
    From an ex -boss this lesson hasn't been forgotten: to get something done requires the same message 3 times;
    1. Tell them you're going to tell them.
    2. Tell them.
    3. Tell them you've told them
    These days we substitute telling with electronic media
    • Balaji
    • AVP, Symphony Services Corporation
    "Doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result is called insanity" - Albert Einstein

    If the message didn't get across (and hence didn't produce the desired result) the first time, we need to step back to ponder about what was missing and then provide that.

    If repeated messages get the desired outcomes, I suspect that it going to be out of frustration, guilt or "just getting it off my back."
    • Anjali Arun
    • chief of laboratory services, Vikram Hospital Mysore
    Health care industry where the line of reporting is blurred and most work has interdepartmental implications ,these findings are extremely relevant .
    I have used " redundant communication " for years with excellent results , but did not have a name for it. Nor the scientific conclusion that it is indeed effective.
    • Anonymous
    Interesting observation.

    It will be further interesting to know the area of business for the sample used.

    The Research topic may also extend to explore for big technology projects with multi-cultural, multi-national, multi-location team members. Attributes could be following:
    - Productive thinking may be more contributory than spending time on redundant communication.
    - There could be a dilemma in prioritisation towards project deliverable and sense of authority, which may be counter productive.
    - Getting the right people for the right job is the base task in itself. Leveraging strength of team members can work wonders. Persistent redundant communication with or without authority may not contribute to bridge this gap.
    • Anonymous
    Communication is a two ways street. So it really depends on who you are speaking to and the best mode of communication that appeals / motivate an individual.

    Different individuals, levels, industries and cross cultural context will also probably shape the different methods of communication to deploy.

    Take for example, in some countries where sms is not a preferred choice of communication, other forms of communication might be more suitable. When dealing with highly mobile sales persons, they would prefer phone calls over emails. Emails to them are really a waste of time and hassle as they do not have the luxury to sit in from of a computer. Communication with the goal of getting a task done will defer from a cleaner to a teacher.

    Also different people excel differently. Some probably do better with micro-management where you follow up reminders and every freaking detail but some will probably excel if you give them their own playing field and back off.

    Communication and human dynamics is an absolute art that has no fixed formula and is a "customized" discovery process. Say cheers to "personalized medicine"!

    Lastly, power may help to get things done faster but if it is not something that an individual is really keen to do; quality maybe questionable. Just imagine doing something for someone you hate and someone who you adore.
    • Cristine Leavitt
    • CI Director, DEED
    What about getting results? The study noted that "... the results didn't show that either group was more successful with deadlines or meeting budget requirements. " Communication should be about who achieved desired results within budget, timeline, etc. It does not appear that either approach delivererd more successfully in this important aspect.

    From a Lean perspective, you want to drive waste, including repated communications, out of your processes. Check out David Allen's Getting Things Done strategy or look into Tribal Leadership to learn how to create a culture of freedom and efficiency.
    • Anonymous
    Yes,I agree that use of Multiple media plays a vital role in Downward communication .It helps in maintainig the proper line of control in organisations.Repetitions of messages helps in laying down the importance of messages.The convincing power depends upon the channel of communication and the reciever should be able to understand the information communicated clearly.
    As far as power is concerned,a person may use referent power to communicate the message clearly if there is direct interaction between management and employees.
    • Liz Guthridge
    • Managing Consultant, Connect Consulting Group
    I agree with Christine. Results matter! Also, in my LEAN COMMUNICATIONS work, I emphasize that it's important to put yourself in your customers' shoes and communicate with them on terms and timing that's relevant for them. In reading this study, it sounded as if the project managers and bosses were doing what was easier, more comfortable, and more familiar for them. That does not endear yourself to your customers. Nor does it guarantee that you cut through the clutter, get people's attention, and encourage them to act on time. Show respect!
    • Linus Fernandes
    Just goes to show that if you wish to get things done, "If I told you once, I've told you a million times" just doesn't cut the cake.
    • CrisMarie Campbell
    • Principal Consultant, The Table Group Consulting
    As a previous project manager at Arthur Andersen Business Consulting, I had little authority yet needed to influence action - repetition was key!

    Today, working as a Principal Consultant at Patrick Lencioni's company, The Table Group, we work with executive teams and tell them they are the marketing arm to the rest of the organization. As such, you as the leader have to repeat something in different ways before people hear it, understand it, believe it and then start to take action on it.

    Leaders think they are being redundant, but in fact they are helping people integrate new behavior.
    • Anonymous
    Nooooooooooooo Please Noooooooooooooo

    I remember my father telling me that my children will learn how many times I say something and how urgent I sound before my 'requests' are meaningful and deserve their attention. So, make sure I teach them to respond to the first instruction. And, hold them accountable. I learned the same thing with my puppy.

    I'm not suggesting we treat each other like children or puppies! I am suggesting we do learn what is important very quickly!

    I do not need nor do I want to be responsible for reminder messages. I put my tasks in my list and get them done on time. If I can't meet the deliverable, I renegotiate it before the deadline. That's the behaviour I promise and expect.

    I do acknowledge the need to use appropriate communication and multiple channels.
    • Nicole L. Rose
    • Digital Strategy Director, Oruburos
    This makes sense to me. In order for me to stay on task as the leader of technical project operations, I require the redundancy of consistently referring to a recalculated prioritized list. My lead programmer has also voiced the same need for a repeated check-in on prioritized items via different delivery platforms.

    Having also been a leader coder on ground-breaking projects, I can attest that the lack of redundancy in prioritized needs results in inefficiency. The concept is a bit paradoxical, but true in practice.
    • Bob Summerhurst
    • Head Guy,
    This is an important topic and worthy of further study.

    Getting your message through with the intention of getting results is a core skill or attribute of management. It may seem trite but management is about getting other people to perform. If results are spotty then perhaps some evaluation of the manager's skill is warranted.

    Another aspect worth pursuing is how often does the organization create project teams? If too much, they may be burnt out. How have project teams been rewarded or not in the past? The level of commitment will be reflected in the "what's in it for me" element.
    • Michael Austin
    • V P Sales, Guardian Life of the Caribbean Ltd
    Interesting article. I believe that using a broad brush approach will have both positive and negative results as individuals respond differently to repeated follow-up. Managers need to know their team members and use the approach best suited to each.
    • Matthew M. Thomas
    • Associate Technical Fellow, The Boeing Company
    An interesting formalization of the notion that redundancy is preferable to omission, regarding communication. Common sense would dictate that some subtlety in the repetition be preferred: One can readily envision the THIS NEEDS DOING IN 9 DAYS! THIS NEEDS DOING IN 8 DAYS! THIS NEEDS DOING ... jackhammer growing insufferable immediately (and perhaps the departed manager in #2 fit this mold). The more the manager is inclined to be type X, the more careful s/he needs to be by way of frequent reminders. They can be a pain; I'm grateful not to have had to put up with this type in quite some while. The context for my comment is the engineering subculture within the large-scale American industrial culture; it may well be inapplicable for situations such as that described in #8 (in which a longing for hara-kiri became the end result of the perceived pestering).
    • Angela Florcke
    • Senior Associate, Work Moves Consulting Inc.
    Frankly, I think this is one of today's work realities. I don't believe it's simply a matter of 'towing the line' (by subordinates) and 'effective leadership' (by managers in control or otherwise). It's recognizing the real challenges of managing information overload that is now present as a result of multiple media / comms tools, as well as the transient nature of our work relationships.

    While I agree that a responsible and pro-active employee could misinterpret these multiple missives as a lack of trust in their capabilities and see it as a waste of time, project launch communications could overcome this issue by addressing the challenges team members will be facing over the course of a project. Advising everyone from the start that this method will be used (judiciously) to support project objectives can help to overcome any resistance to these 'reminders'.

    Nevertheless, the power of these reminders can be enhanced in a number of ways; they can be used to 'remind' about deadlines; provide support and encouragement; give needed direction and advice; offer updates; etc.

    Communication is as much about delivering a message as it is about listening and being there for the team. It also has to recognize that the team may need help 'filtering' the information they are inundated with everyday.

    This is not an excuse for poor managers to offer the same reminders over and over again; this IS nagging. Good managers (with or without control) are responsible for moving a projec along and helping the team get to where they are going.

    Depending on the organization and the culture, the type, frequency and tone of messages will determine the level of success they attain.
    • Abhishek Syal
    • Founder President, Act to Rise for Innovation in Special Education ( A R I S E )
    Perhaps, one could explain why. People in power are using their 'Chair's control' to get things done. Subordinates know that they form an impact in their career progress.

    Whereas, managers without power have to create that kind of impact without the influence of the chair. Typically, they need to delve deeper to make sure that their subordinates complete the work.
    • Praveen Zala
    • Project Manager, Hewlett Packard
    This is an excellent piece of research - to start with. Thanks for the observations. I would like to point all of us radically into a different direction. Just imagine how many of us - on this forum post and otherwise use a 'To-do' List. What is it about the 'To-do' List that gets things done for you. How many of us follow the GTD (Getting Things Done) formal methodology (by David Allen) and swear by it. What is the beauty of these techniques - if you go deeper, you would realize that - the repetitiveness of the list and the unfinished task staring at you spurs you into action! Bingo! That's the parallel I want to draw with what has been observed with this research. I agree that the amount of repetitive communication (with no surprise) has to go up with folks who are not direct reports - to get tangible results. I see this day in and day out in my job as a manager working with various colleagues from different departments.
    • Pankaj Sahai
    • Author, Smooth Tide To Venture Capital
    Very,very, very surprised to read the findings.

    In one stroke many well accepted management principles and concepts have been canned by this research e.g.
    - MBO _ management by Objectives
    - Management by exception
    - 80/20 principle
    - Emotional Intelligence
    - Intrinsic and Extrinsic rewards in motivation theory
    - Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

    All the above can be used to manage projects better.

    Redundant communication is just that - redundant .......not required , as it saps the motivation and morale of the people being subjected to it. To assess its full impact on the organisation, any further research on this ( I think, very redundant!) topic should be accompanied by data on the attrition rates, stress levels, motivation, morale and the effectiveness of the organisational culture in developing leaders , in the organisations which using this principle to manage their projects.

    Sir, redundant communication IS nagging and should be eschewed at all costs. Managers as Leaders should use words very carefully.. In the ancient Chinese text ,Tao Te Ching , Lao Tsu, emphasises in para 17 : "A leader displays the highest form of leadership when people barely know he exists; his reticence shows the importance he puts upon his words; when his undertakings are successful, the people say 'we did it ourselves' ". Need I say more ?
    • sr.manager projects
    • satyanarayana
    In my opinion redundancy in communication leads to results out of frustration and not by participation, it may also lead to compromising on quality
    • Anonymous
    Couldn't agree more with some of the comments here re: employees should just get the job done because that's what they committed to when first recruited. There are, however, political games people play particularly towards managers lacking direct power and it has to be acknowledged and addressed. Go through their line managers I'd suggest. Redundancy has its place but it needs to be done with class and strategy, it's worked for me.
    • Anonymous
    One has to be very careful with this type of communication. Whilst it is fair enough to communicate the Vision relentlessly so people know where they all are going, I think more harm can be done with redundant communication, IF it is not done in the right way and if there is a lack of trust in the relationships already. I agree with some of the comments that everything starts with recruitment according to the organanisation's values and effective leadership. Then it won't be necessary to keep on asking because people will feel passionate and driven towards a common goal. You will only end up with the good staff going and the ones relying on "gopher delegation" will stay. Not good.
    • Anonymous
    I suspect that project members or emloyees getting these reudundant communications are not organized enough.They could be using these communications as warnings and notifications of upcoming deadlines and tasks to be completed.
    Feedback I got was that organized and efficient team members detest multiple communications and even go on to say that it cuts into their productivity.
    • Anonymous
    I fully agree with the research. Many have adopted holier than holy cow approach but fact remains that all of us need reminders. Sometimes, it irritates particular individual due to his/ her very high level of commitment but in general to say more than 95% need to be informed that particular task has to be completed and there is no escape possible. It may be redundant communication but it works.
    • Dennis
    • Quality Lead
    Situational Leadership: When ideal conditions exist, the ideal motivation for getting the desired outcomes can be used with maximum short and long-term benefits. When less then ideal conditions exist and the outcome must be achieved in a limited timeframe, less than ideal motivations may be used to achieve the short-term outcome with accompanying long-term consequences. Each of our situations is different comprised of differing raw materials and other resource constraints.
    • Faruk Arslan
    • Associate Director, AT&T
    "Redundancy" is a valid communication strategy to get things done, but the utilization of this strategy is contingent upon the complexity of the task, timeline pressure, and the team's capability. I have managed teams with strong and capable individuals (with disciplined thought and action) where I rarely utilized this strategy (contingent upon the complexity of the project and deadline). However, I have utilized redundant communication strategy frequently (e-mail, daily face to face touchpoint, internal chatroom,etc), whenever I managed teams with less capable members especially when we had critical, complex and/or time-sensitive deliverables. Hence, it is important to incorporate variables such as timeline, criticality (high-visibility and high-impact), activity complexity as well as team capability into this research (if it has not been done so). Thanks.
    • Steve Levin
    • Leading Change Coaching
    The key to being heard and taken seriously is not REPETITION but rather ENGAGEMENT. Mere redundancy is nagging unless there is something fresh and relevant for the listener. Sure, tell them what to do six times if necessary...but make each time really count by rising above the clutter of demanding, pleading or whining.
    • She'
    • Communications Manager
    This is a wonderful article: redundant communication. I think it's more commonly referred to as "follow up." Not only is redundant communication necessary, different forms of communication also are necessary. Sending an e-mail does not guarantee that the message was received. It might be necessary to make a phone call, personal visit or send a text as well. Reach out until you get a response and know that you're all on the same page. No harm in sending reminders of the project deadlines on a regular basis, and offering assistance if need be.

    I've found it helpful to inform project members early on that I will be checking in periodically. That way it doesn't seem so much like nagging.

    Great examples. I hope some managers don't take the reference to the parent/child relationship as justification to treat team members as thier children. That could lead to harrowing consequences.
    • Venkat
    • Asst. Vice President
    Using persistent and redundant mode of communication drives home the point that Boss is very interested in getting this through and it also stresses the fact regarding the importance of the take to be completed or pending for completion.

    • S.S.G.K.MURALI
    While this article explores the efficacy of redundant communication in industries with flexible structures based on operational requirements, would the same apply in those industries like manufacturing, construction etc where hierarchical structures are in place. Invariably in rigid structures like the armed forces, redundant communication is not permitted, maybe some research can look at this also and find out this is not efficacious in certain domains
    • Santhanam Krishnan
    • Mumbai, India
    Interesting research. Redundant communication works - at what cost? Does it not ultimately contribute to reduction in investor value? Is there any research in this regard? Also what were the health traits of those successful redundant communication managers?
    • keith jeffers
    • principal consultant, employment matters consulting
    there is value in keeping people focused on the task, outcomes and timelines with regular communication to share information, ideas and eanble problem solving. when communication becomes nagging, it becomes noise and therfore ineffective and dysfunctional
    • Kern Lewis
    • Marketing Director, Bovo-Tighe
    To really understand the dynamic at work in this study, I agree with others that we do need more information about the quality of the initial interactions, and the overall culture of the organizations.
    Engaged employees who have energetically bought into the goals of the project will need less prodding. What is the relative leadership quality of the managers being studied. What is their "nudging style?"
    And how were the conditions of "touching base" established between each project leader and his or her team members. Were they prepared for the follow-up, and therefore more comfortable with it?
    I think there are too many variables we cannot see/touch/examine in the study for us to truly hang our hat on these results.
    • Mike Dalton
    Many of the comments worry about a barrage of mindless redundant communication - but when that has to happen there's probably some other problem (like rampant bad multi-tasking) that is preventing people from making and delivering on commitments.

    There's also a lesson here for communicating vision, strategy, and even project goals and objectives. Kotler, in "Leading Change," estimates that managers under communicate the important things by a factor of 10 - mainly because of all the noise you have to break through to engage people. Also, think of how much energy it takes to get a leadership team to agree on strategy. So you can't expect people within the organization to get it (at least not at the deeply committed level you need) with only limited exposure - hence the value of rmulti-channel and seemingly redundant messaging.
    • Matt
    • NHS
    Very interesting and the moment 'redundant communication' becomes explicit - a known method - the audience will adapt to retain conscious control. A colleague of mine insists that we all have some of the traits listed on the Autistic Spectrum, so perhaps I'm able to turn up my natural Pathalogical Demand Avoidance, when it suits me.

    My grandmother used to call it 'selective deafness' and she was wise ... the more inconvenient you make something the more ingenious people become.
    • JT
    • Consultant, JTC
    Yes, brow beating works but in the short run. People who outperform tend to leave a nagging culture for one of empowerment and teamwork. That will leave you with the job of nagging a group of underperformers. Not a recipe for long term success IMO.
    • Lorraine Fetter Scott
    • Project Manager, NewPage
    In this world of smaller staffs, increasingly matrixed organizations and an economic situation that sparks overlapping priorities, every plate is more than overflowing with hot deliverables.

    Remember that people aren't machines. They forget, they lose track, they procrastinate, they underestimate the work effort, they let urgent superceed important. We know that not everyone is a good manager of their own time. Does that mean we fire them - of course not! This is exactly why we have project managers.

    Friendly reminders to those that experience has taught us will need it, are often welcome since it helps folks deliver to their commitments and reminds them that maybe it's time to renegotiate the promise before they default on the deadline.
    • Susan Matasva
    • Contract Management Officer, IAEA
    Read comment with great interest, as someone from a projects background.

    First and foremeost, in Project-based Management, authority and power carry different meanings. There is need to have a clear-cut definition between the two, if we are to accurately evaluate the impact of Project Managers' method/style of communication and its influence on project outcome .

    In real-life project delivery process, communication from a Project Manager with both authority and power tends to impact more than from a Project Manager with only power but has not been given significant authority on the project.

    While the article is quite interesting and informative, the relationship between authority and power needs to be furrther dwelled on, as it is currently a bit veiled in obscurity.
    • Maen Abilmona
    • Project Manager, IFP Lebanon
    I think that this article answers some managerial questions in one part of the world only.
    In others, where the culture is a bit different, there are additional factors that influence the formula like ineffective employment, resistance to change, orthodox management, the economic situation, inside/outside environment... etc. All the above can make or break a project manager, mostly the inside environment and the criteria used in recruiting.
    Taking the above into consideration as dependant variables will surely change the result, given the research is undertaken in a different culture.
    Nevertheless, all said, this article has definitely drawn my attention to communication redundancy and its effects on my results. Now i do look at this subject from a different angle.
    • Anonymous
    The results also provide a concrete strategy for managers in Neeley's Executive Education classes who are struggling with how best to communicate with workers. "This is an actual strategy--a communication persuasion strategy that they will go and try," she says.
    • Anonymous
    It is important to note that the reminders go to the people, who require reminders.
    For - people who understand their work and are doing, this feels like the other person is always on their head.
    Follow up is important and good.
    But, Nagging certainly not.

    By Nagging - you may achieve result (I agree). However, you cannot build a culture within the people to make them realize their responsibility and work on their own.

    Later, they will find, if it's urgent, the other person will follow up multiple times and we would address at that time.