In the first part of this series, I tried to dissect the belly of modern communication and shared the Whats. Then in the second part, I looked at how they relate with each other and what Rules we can derive from them. Now let’s see what steps we can take to ensure we are communicating as efficiently and effectively. Algorithm!
To refresh our minds, here are the different Pieces:
- Forms (Text, Images, Audio, Video)
- Types (one-way: Documenting/Broadcasting or two-ways: Conversing)
- Modalities (Synchronous vs Asynchronous)
- Stages of Data to Wisdom (DIKW framework even though I disagree of the pyramid representation)
- Lifecycle of communicating: Tacit to Explicit and vice versa (Capture the Tacit, Process, Document the Explicit)
- Directions of a conversation (Converging and Diverging)
- Factors (Why, Who, What)
And a summary of the Rules. I elaborated on each in the second part of the series.
- Types determine Modalities. Broadcasting or Documenting means async, Conversing means sync.
- The more human you need to be, the more Forms you need to use.
- Combination of the three aspects of Impact determine Urgency.
- Urgent means immediate broadcast. Urgent messages require acknowledgement only if it’s High Impact.
- There are three Intentions to every communication and Intention puts help guide Maturity of message required.
- You need a go-to tool for each Lifecycle.
- Floss your data and tools. Tool hygiene: the biggest trap we all fall into.
- Appropriate, relevant, and accessible Content and Context is an ongoing effort. There is no one-size-fits-all.
- Size of audience / conversation partners depend on the Stage.
4 Steps to BULLETPROOFING Your communication
OK I know the Pieces and the Rules, now give me the Algorithm!
- Start by thinking of Who you are communicating with. This seems obvious but many times I just start documenting, writing, talking, or presenting and skipping this most important part: Who am I communicating with? What do I hope them to be able to do/know/feel afterwards? Why do I want to have this conversation with them? What do I want to be able to do/know/feel? How large is the group? How large should the group be? What are their roles in relation to me / in the context of this message? What do they know/want/have?
- Then you think about What you want to communicate. The attribute of the message itself. Doing this deliberate mental check will result in a bit more effective communication. I’ll share some cheatsheet later in the next parts of this series to help you do this more quickly.
- What’s my Intention?
- What’s the Impact to the recipient / conversation partners?
- How Urgent is it, considering the Impact?
- How Mature is the message, considering the Intention?
- From the What, the How became clear. What Type, Form, Density, and Frequency. Do I do it asynchronously, do
- Knowing 1) Who you are communicating with, 2) What you are trying to achieve, and 3) How it will be done puts you in the right mindset to Prepare the appropriate amount and density of relevant Content and Context.
It sounds complicated and time consuming but I assure you we are all making these decisions unconsciously in split seconds most of the time. Once you loosely internalised and practiced these checklists, the mental process happens automatically and serves as a layer of sanity check.
Initial sketch of the Steps
Feels like stating the obvious by now, but doing bottom-up analysis to arrive at this was fun.
Everything I’m describing here are really communication mental models we already developed as an adult who had gone through different life situations. They come naturally to some of us and for some of us we need to hone deliberately.
These decisions happen on a split second for most communication (Should I call or should I text? Should I turn the video on or leave it off?). But there are communication that’s more difficult to navigate (Do I call for an all-hands or share a memo and host a Q&A? Which ones of my meetings are necessary? How can I make my meetings efficient? In what ways are my current communication ineffective?).
I hope by making these processes explicit, it can help us examine the gaps in our communication, and work on closing them. Having a way to think about our communication will keep us stay mindful and communicate more successfully.
Yes perfect communication is HARD. We can only make it less bad. We can communicate better by fixing one bad practice at a time. Go get ’em.
Hi there. This post is part of Knowledge Worker’s Communication Guide series (need a more sticky name, any idea / suggestion on what to call this lens?)
My working outline:
- Knowledge Worker’s Prayer: Dissecting Communication (part 1)
- How They Relate: I know the pieces, now give me some Rules that govern the pieces! (part 2)
- 4 Steps to Bulletproofing Your communication: I know the Pieces and the Rules, now give me the Algorithm! (part 3, you are here)
- Communication Mad Lib. If you can fill this template out, you’ve covered all grounds.
- Modern Communication Commandments
- Common Pitfalls of Communication. E.g. Wrong Intent, Wrong Density, Wrong sense of Importance (Impact and Urgency), Wrong Maturity.
- FAQ of Communication. E.g. “How do I know if I need to converse or broadcast?“, “How do I know my intention is met?“, “How often should I repeat this, and how do I do that without sounding like a broken record?“, “How to promote good tool hygiene?“
- Brain Scripts for Good Communication. “What do I want them to know / think about / understand / feel?”, “Is this enough Content and Context for them?“
- Land of the Concrete
- What problems will this lens help me solve?
- What tools do we need for purpose? How to select the best tool? What information should each artefact have?
- Which medium is appropriate for each Form? When would text suffice, when to do video? Do I Slack or do I Email?
- You don’t need a meeting if….
Also published on Medium.