Tuesday, 10 March 2015


I was talking to a friend recently about the role of Communications in a big corporation. This discipline like HR is one which has grown and entwined itself through organisations. It’s yet another function to blame when things go wrong. But does it fulfil a useful role?

I personally don’t have an internal communications strategy in my own house. My wife tells me what to do and I do it. It really is that simple but in a 10,000 or bigger business ensuring the misunderstandings that can ruin a business are avoided, is vital.

Improving the quality and quantity of communication in a large business covering different countries and cultures could probably improve productivity and save money faster than anything else. It’s also certain than in a knowledge economy where there is an explosion of data and information, filtering and controlling the information dissemination needs new disciplines.

Just for a moment imagine this 10,000 strong business where the following happens.  Simple jargon-free English is the norm so the irate manager who said the following never has to get irate again.
If I hear the word ‘upcoming’ again I shall be down-coming and someone will find themselves outgoing.

E-mails will be short in short easy to understand sentences. Always. Every e-mail will have an ACTION REQUIRED section at the end. People who write complex e-mails will be required to do a “Communications Course.”

All documents, all of them, will have a short executive summary which has as point one - why this report has been prepared and point two - what readers are being asked to consider and decide.

Presentations should only last 20 minutes. In exceptional circumstances presentations may be longer but no presentation will ever last more than one hour. No presentation will have more than one slide per minute. No slide will have more than 12 words on it. No meeting should last more than the length of an average examination (namely 3 hours). The consequence of this is that agenda creation and the rigorous use of pre-meetings and meeting preparation will intensify. In fact meetings will become an art-form in celebration of clarity and minimalism.

All executives will receive regular coaching in clarity of, impact creation and brevity of communication in the business context.

In all appraisals “Quality of Communication” will be a KPI or Important measurement of performance and potential - acronyms are being weeded out as abominations.

Face to face communication is being encouraged but all new recruits are being coached in something new to them called “telephone manners”.

What’s wrong with all this is it smacks of the “Thought-Police” and a regimen of communication dictatorship. But this is not an attempt to create a 21st century Tower of Babel.  Quite simply a more focused and disciplined communication strategy is needed in most companies if we are to produce a generation of effective, rigorous and clear thinking managers.

It’s that simple.

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