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Plans and budgets must be in Low-context of communication

A recent analysis revealed that over 56% of CFOs surveyed indicate that their biggest challenges are in strategic planning and budgeting. The solution to these challenges is not with the acquisition of a CPM application as many con artists say.

The strategic planning and budgeting process involves people of different cultures, societies, and teams often communicate very differently from each other. This can make the task of communicating across cultural boundaries a very tricky one.

Communication experts applied to the world of Corporate Performance Management have adopted the terms “low context” and “high context” to describe basic differences. No culture, organization or team is entirely low or high context. Within any group, there is a range of behaviors involved in the strategic planning and budgeting process.

Throughout the global or regional organization, there's a range of low-context of high-context business units, functions and teams. As you move along the range from low- to high-context, communication becomes less explicit and more intuitive. The following descriptions encapsulate some major differences between low- and high-context cultures and communications within those cultures.

No organization culture is completely low- or high-context. Every organization culture is a mixture of both low- and high-context situations and groups. For instance, families are high-context regardless of the surrounding culture; members of a family know how to behave, and often communicate indirectly without spelling out information in words.

A train station, an airport, or an association are low-context, regardless of the culture. People in these environments don't know each other, and can't always rely on the same shared context or background when communicating. Their communication has to be explicit, and they must spell out information in greater detail. However, the types of culture can be generalized according to Figure 1.

Figure 1

Low-context cultures (People rely on facts and verbal explanations, not intuition, nonverbal cues, or common assumptions).

In low-context cultures, people tend to have many relationships of fairly brief duration and relatively few deep, lasting relationships. Also, people tend to be more focused on tasks and work than they are in relationships. Communication in low-context cultures has these characteristics:

- It's direct and to the point

- It's logical and sequenced

- Information is spelled out

- Meaning is contained in the message, rather than in body language and gestures

- Communication is carried out primarily to exchange information

High-context cultures (People share common assumptions, beliefs, and knowledge that enable them to communicate without relying only on words).

In high-context cultures, people may have fewer relationships overall, but relationships are of longer duration. People are born into a specific social group, often an extended family, that supports them throughout their lives. And people are more focused on maintaining relationships than they are on tasks and work. High-context communication has these characteristics:

- It's indirect

- It's understated

- It happens in a cyclical, not logical, order

- Attention is given to nonverbal behaviors and cues

- Meaning is contained in the context – gestures, body language, and shared knowledge and assumptions

- Communication is carried out primarily to maintain relationships and save face


The CFO should encourage a low-context culture to ensure that those involved have a well-understood level of communication and at the same time make better use of Corporate Performance Management, the internet, and telecommunications applications.

I hope this blog is useful to your work.

Have a Happy weekend!!!!

Pedro San Martin

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