Discussion Questions For Chapter 2

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Discussion Questions for Chapter 2

1. What is Chapter 2’s main point?

This chapter discusses the thirteen types of decisions professionals from a number of fields ask their audiences to make and the effectiveness of learning your audience’s information requirements for each type of decision. By classifying these audience decisions and the documents, presentations, and interactions that elicit these decisions, professionals have the ability to more accurately predict the information their audiences are expecting them to provide in a document, presentation, or interaction. Twelve of the thirteen types of decisions are split into two groups which include Principal/Agent relationships (oversight, compliance, staffing, employment, exonerative, rally) and Audience decisions about financial resources (investment, lending, usage, sourcing, budgetary and borrowing). Decisions about principal/agent relationships can be further divided into three pairs which include decisions that (1) execute the relationship (oversight, compliance), (2) establish the relationship (staffing, employment), and (3) maintain the relationship(exonerative, rallying). In the three pairs listed, the first of each pair is made by principals and the second by agents. The last type of decision is a policy decision and determines whether to make a change that will affect a group or organization. This is different than the other types of decisions because unlike principal/agent relationship decision types, policy decisions are often made by groups or colleagues, or by a leader who has asked his subordinates or advisers for advice. In addition, policy decisions can be affected by external groups that might have a stake in the decision (i.e. Constituents, unions, special interests) and can sometimes require professionals to determine decision criteria and convince their audience to accept these criteria. Finally, there are some types of decisions that do not fall under any of the above types of decisions. This includes decisions that professionals are more likely to make by themselves (judicial, regulatory, technical) do not fall under any of the thirteen decision types. Classifying types of decisions will help communicators save time and improve the accuracy of predicting what information each audience requires.

2. In what ways does the chapter challenge common assumptions about effective communication?

It is commonly assumed that a communicator will learn a great deal about what information to present if he knows the format the audience expects, the source of a message, and the type of audience he will be presenting to. However, these tell the communicator virtually nothing about what content the audience is expecting. Also, one might assume that documents classified in similar ways will have similar content and those classified in different ways will have different content. For instance, “plans” and “reports” are seemingly different but a business plan and an annual report will have very similar content. Also, all “plans” are not meant to elicit the same types of decision. A business plan might elicit an investment decision or a meal plan might elicit a usage decision. In addition, many might assume that a leader describing a specific issue within the organization can use the same content to effectively persuade an audience that includes the board of directors equally as well as an audience that includes lower-level employees. However, this is not the case because the Board and low-level employees will have different decision criteria and thus expect different information to make an informed decision. The leader will be most effective if he determines the needs and preference of each specific audience and present to each of them accordingly.

3. What benchmarks are mentioned in “Table 2.5: Expert’s Comments that Reveal their Decision Criteria for Making Investment Decisions” on pages 72-74? What benchmark information might have convinced the experts that the