No MBA mumbo-jumbo, just stuff that's worked through 30 years of team-building in business and the military.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Keeping Things Clear

“Clear as mud,” my sergeant said. As a young lieutenant, I thought he was just grumbling, but when the whole platoon did the wrong thing I knew better. My brilliant operations order didn’t communicate.

Patrick Lencioni, a noted author and presenter, once said, “Create, over-communicate and reinforce clarity.” Clarity is the absence of doubt or confusion. Clarity is complete understanding.

Here’s how you do that. First, keep things simple. Every wrinkle you add to the plan raises questions. “When do we do that? Is that me or someone else? Why?” Fewer steps, normal processes, usual assignments - those things are clear.

Next, keep telling people. You think they got it, they think they got it. But someone doesn’t, and for the rest hearing it once more won’t hurt. I do this by walking the floor, asking people if their inputs are what they expected, reminding them what the folks downstream expect to see.

Then, when they’re getting it right, don’t change. Keep your expectations and message consistent. State your vision in the same words. On good teams, the vision statement is so well known it starts being fodder for jokes. Where I work, the phrase is “customer delight.” When demand increases, people say, “There’s sure a lot of customer delight going on.” When something goes wrong they say, “That doesn’t look like customer delight.”

The clearer your intent, the more likely everyone on your team will work to your intent. But just like windows, clarity is muddied by life. It needs constant attention.

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