What? There is a Failure to Communicate?

Communication is at the core of everything we do. Being able to use our voices and words to communicate ideas, opinions, instructions, and how we feel is a wonderful thing.  Is it any wonder then that some managers believe that the “lack of communication” is the “main culprit” when it comes to the failure of some projects. Is the English language really to blame or is it something else? Communication is not as easy as some might think. Could we really be stumbling over our words or is it the way in which we use the words?

I am just fascinated by words and languages! According to the SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics), an organization that has been tracking languages since the 19th century to translate The Bible, they have identified 6,909 distinct languages worldwide. And as of January 2015 there were 1,025,109 words in the English language alone. The Oxford English Dictionary contains 171,476 words in current use and 47,156 obsolete words. And when it comes to organizations and their lines of business the terminology might be a bit different depending on the culture. I agree that communication can be a very tricky thing!

This sort of concern becomes very serious when an organization is spending millions of dollars to implement a new solution to ensure continued success and growth. How can any organization grow if they are getting hung-up on their own language?

As a seasoned BA, I like to listen and ask a lot of questions. I like to start with some organizational research and then questions about the project life cycle and the various layers of communication in use with the project. That is why a glossary for terminology, acronyms, and organizational nomenclature is so important for any and all kinds of companies.

Whereas marketing and communication professionals know how important it is when crafting a message to their external customers – communication can be equally important internally – in other words, learning how to be a good communicator/messenger all around.

There are many things to think about when it comes to good communication. Here are six essential communication techniques:

1.)    Be clear and concise – as the simpler the message the quicker it can be comprehended

2.)    Make the information valuable – as the proper context can improve depth of knowledge

3.)    Share important details – as the details will make a difference regarding the results

4.)    Ensure consistency –  as to convey mixed messages can lead to chaos

5.)    Provide only what is necessary – as putting extra words “or noise” in any message will dilute it

6.)    Do the research and preparation – as preparation serves to achieve the goal(s)

Throughout history communication has been a problem – no matter what language is being used. Yet when the message being communicated is broken down and shared in comprehensive pieces it can become easier. Let’s take Moses for example he created a set of commandments for the people to follow, to bring order to their growing community. From my perspective Moses was the first BA to write a set of requirements in stone. Ha, ha….you may laugh! But really! He led with the word “shall” as that is much softer than “must” or “should.” “Thou shalt not lie” is just as basic as “The solution shall provide a way to calculate a sum total for each purchase.”

Now, I am not saying that we can compare ourselves to Moses….or maybe I am! What I am sure about is that Moses was one great communicator. Another man who earned a nickname as “The Great Communicator” was Ronald Reagan (all politics aside).

Ronald Reagan understood the basics of good communication. His style had everything to do with the delivery, tone of voice and the choice of words but the biggest impact came with knowing the content. He wrote that “I wasn’t a great communicator, but I communicated great things, and they didn’t spring full bloom from my brow, they came from the heart of a great nation.” Reagan communicated thoughtfully and with a prepared voice ensuring that the people could feel connected to his message. In other words….he told them what they wanted to hear and needed to hear.

When Reagan wrote his presidential memoirs he told of how he gathered his speechwriters together and told them that he wanted them to use a basic template. The message was to be twenty minutes long and they were to follow a simple format;

  1. Tell them what you’re going to tell them
  2. …then tell them
  3. …and then tell them what you’ve told them

This strategy of Reagan’s is brilliant because it is so simple. This is a bit different though from what a company president once shared with me; “if you say it to them once, say it three times!” It is a great approach to use repetition in order to execute better communication. Work it into your conversation…it does not need to be a matter of restating a sales order three times in a row. Just for clarity ask for permission to restate the instructions to gain a positive confirmation.

So, if you follow these easy steps it most likely will improve communication for your next project. Unless of course you run into that terrible prison official type from the movie “Cool Hand Luke” who is just waiting to say, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” (Poor Luke, he was stuck in a prison for robbing a parking meter. And the prison official wanted him dead.) I certainly hope that none of you are in that situation, but I would be weary and strive to practice better communication skills.

These communication tips and the use of repetition can also be applied to life in general, as we all take steps to achieve our goals. Remember to manage communication thoughtfully, keep it simple, be consistent with the delivery method and fulfilling the needs of the audience, and then reflect on what was achieved. This is what we do in our daily lives with each and every thing we say and it applies to all great leaders, managers and BAs as they communicate progress and the successes that make businesses better, customers happier and nations great.

We hope you liked these insights! Let us know what you are thinking! Thanks for all your comments!

Mini, Gini, and Vini

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