PDS On Performance

performance improvement ideas and some common business sense

Fix Communication Problems to Improve Results

Written By: Terry Merriman - Mar• 20•13

Declining or poor business results, and failed change, whether a new strategic initiative, construction project, IT system implementation, merger, acquisition, or process restructure within an organization or between organizations result from many different causes, not the least of which is a lack of clarity in communication. When clarity is lacking delegated responsibility, authority and accountability are not accepted; expectations for deliverables, timing, and budget aren’t met; proficiency and competency aren’t developed; processes aren’t executed correctly; and critical success factors are not attained. In short, performance fails to live up to expectations. Sound familiar?

How can you fix a communication problem? Authorities on effective communication will explain that there are many barriers and filters to effective communication, any or all of which lead to an unclear or undelivered message, and can result in a failed change. True, but you don’t have the time or resources to send everyone to a college course on communication.

Here’s a practical approach. Notice that all the situations listed in the first paragraph really come down to expectations about tasks and behaviors; who is expected to do what and for whom.

  1. Step one, stop assuming and write them down; document each important expectation you have and of whom you have it.
  2. Step two, write down what success would look like; what the evidence will be that the expectation is being met.
  3. Step three, meet with the person; set a face-to-face meeting to discuss and agree on every explicit expectation, and escalate unresolved expectations appropriately.
  4. Step four, follow up; check progress on each agreed expectation frequently and before due dates arrive to avoid surprises.
  5. Step five, remember communication is a two-way street whether you are peers or in a superior-subordinate relationship; have the other person reciprocate each of these steps with you.

Using this expectations approach you get and keep people on the same page, focused on common goals, or aligned as we like to say. Ambiguity is reduced, communication effectiveness improves, and you enhance your chances for improved performance and success on any project or activity.

And if you have lots of expectations and lots of people involved, and a piece of paper just won’t work, that’s OK. We have an app for that!

Helping to clear away the communications barriers …


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