From Our Perspective
The VCR was playing in the News for a Change
newsroom. Bits and pieces of an argument between
Abbott and Costello were drifting down the
Costello: Look Abbott, if you’re the
coach, you must know all the players.
Abbott: Right, certainly do…. We
have Who’s on first, What’s on second, I
Don’t Know’s on third.
Costello: Are you the manager?
Costello: You going to be the coach
Costello: And you don’t know the
Abbott: Well I should.
Costello: Well then who is on
Costello: I mean the fellow’s
Costello: The guy on first.
Costello: The first baseman.
Costello: The guy playing first
Abbott: Who is on first.
Costello: I’m asking you who’s
Abbott: That’s the man’s
Costello: That’s whose
Costello: Well go ahead and tell
Abbott: That’s it.
Costello: That’s who?
Costello: Look, you got a first
Costello: Who’s playing
Abbott: That’s right.
Costello: When you pay off the first
baseman every month, who gets the money?
Abbott: Every dollar of it.
JR: I’m sure glad we had the chance
to watch this video again. Every time I think about
the challenge of communications, I remember this
DH: It sure is funny! Isn’t it a good
thing that real-life communications go more smoothly
than this conversation did?
JR: Well, it is hard to imagine any
conversation getting as confused as this one, but I
don’t know if I can agree that most everyday
conversations go smoothly.
DH: You can’t?
JR: No, if we ever stopped to measure the
effectiveness of our communications, I’m sure
the results would be nothing to brag about.
DH: Measure the effectiveness of our
communications? Why would we want to do
JR: If we think about communicating as one
of the most frequently used processes in our work and
personal lives, why wouldn’t we want to measure
its effectiveness? After all, we’re always
preaching that process performance should be
evaluated based on the results it gets.
DH: That’s true. I think I’ve
heard that Einstein said, “Every process is
perfectly designed to get the results it
JR: In fact, I’m somewhat amazed at
how rarely we stop to measure the results obtained
from our communications’ processes.
DH: Maybe that’s because we
don’t know how to measure them?
JR: Oh, the age-old dilemma! How to
measure! But really, measuring the effectiveness of
the communication process isn’t that tough of a
DH: It isn’t?
JR: No, it isn’t. We just need to
have a clearly defined purpose for every
communication and specific outcomes we expect to
obtain from communicating. Those outcomes should be
described as specific responses we expect to occur,
such as actions that should be taken.
DH: I don’t think I get what
JR: Well, if I communicate to you that this
building is on fire, I expect you to leave quickly.
If you stay in your chair and don’t move toward
the door, I know my communication wasn’t
effective. My purpose was to keep you safe, and I
expected you to take appropriate actions to get away
from the fire. When you didn’t do that, I know
that the communication wasn’t
DH: So, if I didn’t leave the room,
you’d know that you were a poor
JR: No! I wouldn’t know why the
communication process had failed, and I
wouldn’t begin to assign blame. But I would
know that I needed to investigate the root cause of
the process failure and fix it.
DH: So, to achieve effective
communications, we need to improve our process and
eliminate the root causes of performance
JR: That’s right.
DH: It always comes back to processes and
results and our tools for quality improvement,
JR: Yes, and that’s News for a
Quotes for the Month
“The presence of humans, in a system
containing high-speed electronic computers and
high-speed, accurate communications, is quite
—Stuart Luman Seaton
“Words differently arranged have a different
meaning, and meanings differently arranged have
First,” excerpted from