Lean Out Your Communications, the Next Lean Frontier
Mark's note: I'm happy to introduce a new guest blogger, Liz Guthridge. She is very active on Twitter and does a lot to educate people about Lean in area we could probably all (myself included!) use some help in – communications. Let us know if you'd like this to be a recurring topic.
By Liz Guthridge, of Connect Consulting Group
The LeanBlog.org readers spoke and Mark Graban listened, which explains this guest post on LEAN Communications(tm).
As background, in the recent Reader Survey, respondents requested:
- More general information, particularly for office environments
- Concisely-written posts (less wordy)
- Clues and guideposts about the subject of the post.
This post is about how you can apply LEAN Communications to convey more with less, which will help you improve your business results and build greater trust. As with traditional lean, your goals in leaning out your communications are to add value to your customers, eliminate waste and make continual improvements.
Why is this so important? According to Bill Jensen, the author of Simplicity, three of the top five biggest time wasters in people's work days are communication-based: meetings, incoming communications (email and instant messaging), and outgoing communications (preparing and making PowerPoint presentations).
(Lean experts aren't immune to these time traps either, based on my discussions at the past three Lean Enterprise Institute Lean Transformation Summits.)
All too often, business people think more about serving their own needs with their communication. They don't take the time to consider what their customers want and then adjusting their messages and method.
Instead, we need to be mindful about how we communicate. You can be more customer-centric by taking these five steps before communicating:
- Define your purpose for communicating. Are you sharing information only? Or do you need action? If so, what and by when? Or, do you have another intent, such as interpreting or inspiring?
- Show respect. Are you being clear and concise? Are you avoiding jargon that individuals may not know? Are you “selling and telling” or “asking and engaging”? For example, do you give others a chance to join your conversation? Do you listen?
- Be easy to use. Is your message easy to access? For instance, can people simply skim your email messages to find the key information, or are they faced with a “wall of words” that they have to sort through? Are your messages timely? Do people know how to get in touch with you for more details or where to go for more information? Are you making sure you're not contributing to the problem of more information overload?
- Be credible. Are you showing through your oral and written communication that you have the technical competence to be believable and trusted? Are you doing what you say you will do?
- Provide value. Are you communicating about the topic in a way that appeals to people's interests? Are you giving them just-in-time information that will help them do their job or enrich their situation? Will they know how to act on the information, as the authors of The Hitchhiker's Guide to Lean emphasize?
Many of us spend the majority of our waking hours communicating, but not in a mindful manner that makes us successful communicators. Effective communication requires discipline and practice.
To help you practice, try some of my free tools, including tips for writing and editing leanly, a two-pager. (One of my clients once said, “If it takes a staple, it's too much information.)
Last but not least, be sure to apply your lean learnings and principles, especially process kaizen, to your daily communications.
P.S. By the way, this post is at an 8.4 grade level with a 58 reading ease score, well within easy-to-read standards.