The Future As Seen By Me In 2010

Well looky here, things one has scanned in eh. (ignore the photo, that's some guy that made some accounting software, not sure what became of him ;) MIKE RIVERSDALE is fuming. The expensive headphones he bought in Sydney three weeks ago have just died. His first reaction is not to randomly spill expletives into his coffee, but to use his iPhone to vent his frustration to his Twitter con- tacts, under the moniker Miramar Mike. "I will also put, 'What should I do?' It's a conversation. I'm reaching out to the people following me." The council predicts hand-held digital devices such as smartphones will rule the world in 2040. They already rule the life of Mr Riversdale, whose company WaveAdept helps businesses adapt - their computing sys- tems to allow staff to work from anywhere - and with anyone. In order of fre- equency, he uses his iPhone to tweet (1136 followers; 8363 tweets since joining), e-mail, make phone calls and use online services, such as checki

3 parts to Clear Communication - Available, Timely and Relevant

It's been a long time coming but here it is folks. And before I start, a wee reminder that collaboration comprises 3 pillars:
  1. Good information
  2. Clear communication
  3. Active connections
In this post I will delve further into the what I mean by 'clear communication', namely that communication MUST* be:
  1. Available
  2. Timely
  3. Relevant

As with 'good information' (and the more slippery 'active connections') it's no good having 2 out of 3 (this isn't a Meat Loaf song) and if a communication piece doesn't meet all three then it's probably worthless to the person receiving that communication.

For instance, don’t tell me about a past meeting that I should have been at (available and relevant but not timely). The most common failing within communication is not making it relevant - hence the perceived information overload, we are inundated with irrelevant information being communicated to us.

It's worth pointing out that Communication is also an activity that can exist outside of collaboration, for more details see the "The 3 C’s – Communication, Consultation and Collaboration".

1: Available + Timely

Let's start with the hardest of all, relevancy. So it's in my face, it's something you need to tell me right now and ... I don't care as it's not relevant to my work at the moment.

We are all inundated with communication. We have, seemingly, so many ways to communicate that we often forget that we are part of the problem as we blast out our ill thought yet seemingly extremely urgent emails to all and sundry. And it is "all" as we try to ensure everyone gets out message.

In effect we stand on our soap boxes and shout into the crowd believing it is relevant the whole crowd and yet the one or two people in the crowd that may find our message relevant are likely to be swamped out by all the other people shouting at them from off their own soap boxes.

Making it relevant is tricky, there is no one magic pill as relevancy is made up of a number attributes that are, second by second, constantly in flux:
  • need
  • mood
  • urgency
  • context
  • time of day
  • ...
Read more about how "Relevancy is not simply on / off" ...

Tough, but one quick win is to get off the soap box and walk to those that need to hear your message, ie go to where your audience is. If you're wanting someone to act on some new information, place it into the process and not into an email - so when they get to step 3 they see the new info.

How does it affect the recipient: It makes them frustrated as they get told stuff that does not affect them straight away BUT they'll spend brain time trying to ingest and remember it for when they do.

2: Available + Relevant

Moving on to timely which is much easier to resolve.

Don't tell me about a meeting that I should be at a day after it was held - yes, the communication is relevant and available but, obviously, not timely. There's also too early, don't tell me about a new process months before I need to use it - tell me in enough time that I can digest what you're telling me, see how it affects me and then do something with it.

A good example here is a change of process. If it's a small tweak then the comms can become part of the online change (I'm assuming you have your processes all online - welcome to the new millenium). As I move from step 3 towards the amended step 4 tell me that it's changed 'from x' 'to y', let me know what I'll see is differnet and how I should behave with links to further information if I want. Tell me this one in my face (pop-up), another 2 times as a reminder (top banner) and then leave me alone.

How does if affect the recipient: They will either learn to discard your messages because there's nothing they can do with them (too early) or setup rules to dump all your late bits of comms and mark you as irrelevant to their lives (too late).

3: Timely + Relevant

"But look, you found the notice didn't you?"

"Yes," said Arthur, "yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard'."

I am imagining a world where the "Beware the leopard" interchange from Hitchikers Guide To The Galaxy is laughed at, but I know it happens. If the communication isn't available then why bother at all!?

Being available is much more than saying, "I posted it on the Internet", that is the lazy attitude. Available is focussing on:

  • Where your audience is
  • How your audience takes in info

If your intended targeted audience does not live on-line then saying that you've shared the link on the in-house social network isn't going to work. If you print posters full of infographics and place them on toilet doors (going where your audience 'goes') then realise that you have a floor full of people that need to hear from a human is not making the communication available to their brain.

You probably be lucky to get everyone in one hit with one method, we work on a "tell people 7 times in 7 different ways".

How does if affect the recipient: They never see it and you're wasting your time and their future efforts.

What YOU can to do

There are two keys parts to making communications clear:

a) Go to where the audience is

It makes you focus on who IS the audience as well as where they are - online / offline, in your office / remote from you, different country (and therefore language / culture), IT savvy / IT get-by ...

b) Answer, "What's in it for me?"

You're telling them something, that's nice. Amongst all the other communications people want to know, "What''s in it for me?" - why should I bother reading this, what do you want me to do.

Be explicit in answering that question in both content and layout.
As a guide I use the "5 W's" (Who, What, When, Where, Why) to structure comms.

I hope that has been useful, given you a basis when you start communicating and even prompted you revisit your own communication framework and make some changes.

Always remember to ask:

Is this communication available, timely and relevant?

And the final pillar of collaboration is 'active connections' that have the three attributes of:
  1. Available
  2. Open
  3. Equitable

* MUST - nothing else will do!


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