If you’re reading this, then you’re serious about knowing how to improve communication at work or in your business. Communication improvement is a topic that’s very close to my heart. Here is a quick story of when I learned the importance of communication.
A Quick Story on How To Improve Communication
“Do you know what the most common reason a project fails is?” asked the workshop trainer.
It was an interesting question. Many answers ran through my mind – bad planning, weak leader, not budgeting properly, not managing expectations, and so on.
A few people in the room volunteered their answers which were similar to mine. Almost expectedly, none of our answers was correct (although the trainer did acknowledge that these were also important factors).
He went on, “Research has shown that the most common reason projects fail is communication.”
“Wow!” I thought. “Could communication be that important?…”
Why am I saying this? Well, I treat every business turnaround as a project. It has a project lead, project manager and a project team. I took this Project Management seminar to try and enhance my skills in a business turnaround situation. Over the years, I kept remembering this projects seminar. He was right! Every time I was in a situation where things went wrong, it usually came down to communication breakdown – people weren’t clear on the strategy, they didn’t know they were responsible for executing a particular part of the plan etc.
Communication is one of the most critical components in a business turnaround. In this post, I am going to show you how to improve communication so that you can turn your failing business around.
The Communication Plan
The first step on how to improve communication is a communication plan. Develop a simple comms plan which shows you and the team every aspect of communication. I use ‘Kiplings Questions’ to craft my plan:
Craft a question from each of these questions. Let’s do a few examples:
Who needs to receive the comms?
What comms needs to be sent?
How is it being sent? (Which format?)
The reasons I use Kiplings Questions are because it covers every angle and it asks simple questions. If you can’t answer simple questions, then you don’t know the plan well enough.
Here’s an example of a simple comms plan:
|Marketing Director||Social Media Stats||Reporting to the Board||Friday 1630|
|Project Manager||Progress Report||Prep for End of Week Scrum||Thurs 1700||Asana|
|Head of Finance||Budget Spend||Ensure we have not overspent the budget||Wed 1200||Slack|
What Comms Do You Need To Receive?
In this digital world, it can be easy to get communication overload. Your phone and laptop are pinging non-stop with emails, texts, social media notifications and much more.
Therefore it is vitally important that you set some basic rules or etiquettes around the comms.
Firstly, decided – What information do you really need to see?
Seriously. Do you need to be copied into every single email? Do you need to receive every text or be part of every Whatsapp group? If you did then you’ll never get any work done! You’ll be forever reading and just barely keeping up with what’s going on.
As a leader/senior, you should be trying to reduce your traffic, not increase it. You should only be copied into important communications. You should be debriefed about everything else at designated times by a few designated people.
What Is Classed As Formal Communication?
If you’re in the middle of a business turnaround, then I highly recommend you create a Business Turnaround Plan (You can find out more about how to create a business turnaround plan in this post.)
The Business Turnaround Plan is the formal strategy. Therefore anything to do with the Plan should be classed as formal comms:
- Completion of a task
- Required approvals
- Extension requests
- Missed deadlines
- Risks etc
All of the above can only be approved by the head of the project. If not, then chaos will reign and it was all in vain.
You might ask for others comms to be formal such as Finance debriefs, debriefs of key meetings with external suppliers,
Keep Formal Comms ‘Formal’
If you’re wanting to improve communication, then learn how to use email properly. My preferred method for formal communication is email. If you receive a formal piece of comms on something like Whatsapp or Slack, then it doesn’t really feel formal. It loses its impact.
Formal comms is just that – formal.
It needs to come via email and it needs to be professionally worded. None of this colloquial and friendly chat.
Can I get an extension on that deadline?
This is not acceptable.
Instead, my teams know that the formal comms should read something like the following:
I am formally requesting an extension on Deliverable XXXX (due on 15th September).
REASON: I was off sick over the course of last week which has slightly put me behind.
PROPOSED DEADLINE: 20th September.
Please kindly advise if this request is approved or declined.
Now doesn’t that sound better? More professional, right? If you professionally run your ship, you will get better results. Forget this new age, hippy, Millenial bullshit. Keep it formal. Keep it professional.
Where Does Informal Comms Go?
There are many business comms apps out there now. I don’t advocate the use of Whatsapp for business use due to the cybersecurity aspect of it all. I am a big advocate of Slack. This app is great for everyday comms such as:
- Can someone send me the [X] file?
- What time is the [X] meeting? It’s not in my diary…
- Does anyone want a Starbucks?
I particularly like the automated features it has such as reminders and 3rd party app integrations with other apps that I use such as Evernote, Gmail, Outlook Calendar etc.
There you have it. Some simple ways on how to improve communication at work. My experience has shown that people crave good, clear comms. Most people just want to be able to do their job to a high standard. As long as you keep things simple, then you’ll begin to see improved comms, happier people and better results straight away.