IN 1983, glam rockers Spandau Ballet released a catchy tune which had the line "Communication let me down, and I'm left here".

It was a memorable hit for a band which was more gloss than substance and they never did define in the song where "here" actually was.

We needn't have worried for Spandau Ballet, though, because wherever "here" was it turns out fortunes were made in supplying them copious gel and mousse to style their mullets.

But in business, you need to communicate clearly at all times and at all levels - there has been many a business failure that has had its genesis in a misunderstanding of an important message.

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Coca Cola's infamous change to the formula of its premier drink was a complete disaster when the "smartest guys in the room" totally misread what their customers were saying in taste surveys and New Coke was rejected and eventually withdrawn.

So it is vital that you clearly deliver messages and are aware of how you do it.

In human communication, in all forms, there are so many variables that can skew a message. Even if you do get everything right, you might not communicate effectively because of the inherent biases of the receiver of the message, let alone their listening skills.

But, make no mistake, not communicating when you should is actually a form of communicating " especially when there is an expectation that you should be talking to people. If you have information that would benefit your group or organisation, it needs to be brought out in the open so that it can be dealt with appropriately.

And you can communicate a message through your actions. Right now, Dean Barker is communicating with the New Zealand public by helping out Oracle in the America's Cup - and I hope he is able to communicate to the Americans how to choke when you have a lead. That would be a most helpful communication.

In a town like Whanganui, it is amazing how effective and efficient the local network is. There are so few degrees of separation that it doesn't take long for messages to reach you (even those might not be meant for you), or for you to find out what people are up to.

If you are tapped into this and have the right contacts, it can allow you to get a step on your competitors.

It is also important to have good tools and modes of communication - ones that work and that you have a good understanding of.

I have a love/hate relationship with emails, for example - at times some emails inexplicably don't get through and emails are useless if your server decides to take a holiday. Choosing emails over face-to-face communication can send another message " that the sender is more interested in CYA than information distribution (I will leave you to work out that acronym).

So communication can let you down but it needn't leave you out in the cold if you know what good communication is.

-Balance Consulting is a Whanganui consultancy specialising in business strategy, process excellence and leadership mentoring - contact Russell Bell on 021 2442421 or John Taylor on 027 4995872.