Reality at work: A business unit exec asks you for immediate communication help for several initiatives underway. They will fail without any employee communication support, preferably full-time for several months. But, the business unit has no budget.
Reality handled -- with success: Consider any or all of these five actions. They’re geared around adding value, cutting waste, and striving for simple improvements -- the principles of lean communication.
1.) Share your planning tools. Spend a couple of hours over lunch (with your colleagues buying) reviewing elemental communication planning. For example, encourage them to think through what need/event is driving their interest in communicating. What do they want to accomplish in the next few months? Who’s critical to reach? What are the key messages? Why should people care? What actions do people need to take and when? What’s the risk if nothing changes?
2.) Help them find and use the tipping point. After they answer these questions, suggest they consider how they can achieve the biggest gains with the least effort. For example, recommend that they take their cues from the consumer product companies that have dropped formal presentations, mass marketing mailings, and big events on the employee recruiting front. Instead, they target the top recruits they want, developing personalized approaches that cut through the clutter and resonate with their key individuals. From your colleagues’ perspective, who matters most? And how do they reach them and convince them to be change agents, ambassadors or viral marketers?
3.) Explain that less is often more. When there’s a fire, the firefighters don’t light another match. But the knee-jerk reaction to fighting fires at work is to say “Let’s communicate!” This frequently happens when there’s a big, somewhat ambiguous goal, a stalled change effort, or potential backlash against an initiative. Try to keep your colleagues from falling into this trap. Communication on its own will not win anyone good will, acceptance or behavior change, especially if employees are already feeling inundated in information. And they can become even crankier if the communication isn’t clear, concise or readily relevant to them.
4.) Introduce them to some easy-to-use free (or almost free) tools.
When it’s time to write and edit, make sure they know about the handy readability tests in Microsoft Word, including the Flesch Reading Ease and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level. Suggest they aim for more than 45-percent on the reading ease score and grade level 10. Another terrific tool is the Bullfighter software, available at www.fightthebull.com
. It measures the amount of jargon in your documents. Yet another tool, which isn’t free but saves time and promotes more coherent prose, is the online version of the AP stylebook.
5.) Barter time. For your valuable counsel and time, you deserve more than a free lunch. So ask for something in return that is of value to you or your communication function. For example, solicit feedback on a project. Vet a new idea. Ask for introductions to people you want to meet. Whatever. Just make sure your colleagues recognize that reciprocation rules.