Clear Communication: The Unbelievably Easy Way To Improve Productivity
Clear communication of your processes increases productivity in your team. Learn the steps to gain clarity around your processes.
Having clear communication with your team improves your company's productivity. And without process clarity, so many challenges can get in the way of effective communication with you and your team. Ultimately, things get lost in translation, or team members work without producing results. But if you can overcome these challenges, the benefits are crystal clear:
- You'll have much better communication with your teams
- Your team members will be clear on what you expect from them,
- And you can grow your team based on defined roles instead of individual talent.
So if you're looking for ways to improve your company's productivity, you'll find these Five Steps To Reducing miscommunication and boosting productivity with your teams very useful.
So let's jump right in.
Bonus: Grab this Checklist To Get Even More Productivity From your team.
So the problem is that most people running teams lack clear communication. So these managers and operators have people working with them who need more clarity on what you expect of them.
And typically, the biggest problem that you have is a communication issue. You might not even be aware of it, but you have a blind spot. So, there is a gap because you, as the leader, have the complete picture of what your people need to know. But your people have different visions. You fail to see the gap because of your depth and experience. And so you can't see, can't tell what your team sees, and don't know how different their picture is from yours. And so you end up with a gap, and that gap is your blind spot. So the effect is that you get the exact words with different meanings.
Clarify your vision
So the issue is that because of your fuller and clearer picture, it's more than your team will ever have. And if your communication has to improve with your team, you must find a way to bridge that gap, period. So if you want to avoid condemning constant miscommunication and things getting lost in translation, then you have to do something about this problem. And I wonder if this has ever happened to you where you say something to someone in your team. And they need to be more fully like they understand what you mean precisely. But then, when they bring back the outcome, the result you were looking for, it turns out to be slightly or entirely different from what you want. So to get the story home, let me illustrate this with something that happened to me when I ran an outsourced overseas team.
A story to illustrate
I had a group of about ten people in the US. And I was working in a company making a relatively complex piece of software. And to expand the team, we picked up an outsourcing team. It was a near-shore situation where they were within the same time zone. Still, it was all a different language, and most of the group's first language was not English. And the person they had as the project manager in charge, meaning, like my main point of communication, spoke English, was a non-technical person.
So what I had was I had a technical team in the US and a technical team offshore. And they did not speak the same language. I speak English and can communicate on software-engineering-related topics in depth.
The telephone game
And I had a point of contact offshore that spoke English but did not speak tech. Worse, we also had a relatively inexperienced and somewhat disorganized product team. As a rule, the process was not very clear. The team was responsible for writing up the requirements for what we were building needed to produce adequate documentation.
What ended up happening was that it started to show up as a problem because we'd have a meeting and leave in agreement. Then somewhere from the product team to me to the point of contact with the team, something else would come out on the other side as a huge issue.
How the problems show up with communication is not clear
Our lack of clear communication started to manifest as confusion, but allow me to illustrate.
When you have a team of people communicating, but there is still confusion, then this is a symptom. Similarly, when you see people working hard without producing any meaningful results, then this is another symptom.
In my case, what happened was like my contact because they needed help understanding and could not translate the high-level or low-level technical details. And because the other team did not speak English, you ended up with a problem where I could not go directly to the source. The nice thing is that most people don't have this issue. So if you have your bases covered, you won't have this problem of having a double barrier of communication. No, instead, what you'll have is that
pretty much the challenge that you'll have is a clarity issue. Because the thing is, to have your bases covered, this is for any entrepreneurs and managers. So if you lack any of these three things, you have a real problem. But you only have one issue to deal with if you don't.
Cover your basis.
The first one is systems. So these are predictable units of operation that have inputs and outputs that you can say when you put this thing in, this thing comes out, that's a system in a very simplified way.
In this context, tools enable you to do the job you need, usually more accessible, faster, better, and more precisely.
And the third thing you have is processed. Now processes are the steps you follow to achieve that expected result. And when you have these things in place with instructions, people usually codify that in what they call an SOP or a standard operating procedure around doing something.
Now, most businesses have systems, tools, and processes, but they still need to communicate better.
This miscommunication comes from the fact that there needs to be more clarity on the whole picture, which we'll try to address today.
The good news and the opportunity
The good news is that you probably don't have a double language barrier between you and your team like I did.
And you might not even have a one-level Walker, meaning you don't have to go to level to talk to somebody else. But you do have some barrier that exists there.
And it usually is a language barrier. But it's not in the way that you think your team wants to do well, and they want to do well for your sake, right, and for their sake. But things just get lost in translation.
Because the language barrier you're dealing with is that you have a picture, and usually, it's a complete picture. You're trying to translate that full picture and transmit it from your brain to brain to someone who does not have that same complete picture as you.
Imagine now if you had process clarity.
What if your team understood what you wanted and understood you? What if your people understood what was happening and had a clearer picture of what you expect of them? That would be the key to alignment through a single document or diagram.
You can apply this clarity to many areas of your business.
- Services: whether you're trying to get clarity on how to perform a service,
- Projects: you're trying to run projects
- Team handoffs: whether you need clarity with teams,
- Product development: whether you're trying to communicate what you expect from a product,
- Content creations: content creation when you're writing articles or creating social media collaterals
- Roles: How do outputs flow from one position to the next?
These are some benefits you can get if you get this clear picture of this map together. The key is clarity in five quick steps, so everyone understands the necessary outputs, inputs, stakeholders, processes, and prerequisites. It will lead to consistent results with more precise communication.
So here are the steps:
Remember that the goal is to avoid wasted effort and resources without timely results.
For instance, you want to eliminate a scenario where you pay your team for a week of work, but there is no beneficial result at the end of the week. No concrete output, nothing you could use or give away? Just a waste of a week and a week's worth of salaries?
It sucks. And no matter how nice the person is or how much effort they put in, you're in wastefulness if the actions do not produce the expected and acceptable results.
It would be best if you had clarity and tangible output from anybody on your team for that person to be considered a productive team member.
The first step is clarifying the outcomes you need to produce.
Clearly, between you and anyone or any product team, you're dealing with, examples would be your product team's requirements. That's the output.
If you have a product team that clarifies what the product will be about, they need specific, precise, written requirements.
Your marketing has to result in prospects for your salespeople—networking, content creation, and posting matter if they produce outputs. Your goal is to get leads for your salespeople to convert or build brand recognition. But when you're close to the ground, you need prospects, and those leads will turn into customers.
The right mindset
This mindset applies to your sales-related roles as well. The goal is to produce orders. Not contacts, not phone calls made, but sales, right? The goal is for your salespeople to bring in deals for whatever you create. And your managers need to achieve goals. That's their output, and this must be clear in your communication. Right, any manager that's managing anything, they're going to be responsible for moving things forward. And these goals are the things that then move the business forward. So your managers will need to achieve their goals. These are examples of outputs you would have for a fairly senior team.
Suppose your product team needs to develop precise requirements for a product that people love and engage with, generating a high NPS score. In that case, they're not producing the output you want from them. If your marketing people need to bring in leads, guess what? It doesn't matter how many activities they're doing. They need to produce the output you want. So you have to be clear on the outcome, the specific tangible thing that needs to come from that team or that person.
Now, the next step is to clarify the clients.
For whom are you doing the work? And this is both internally and externally. I see this with business owners, and I see this with founders all the time. So what ends up happening is imagine that a business owner is getting a website made. And they have all these ideas and hold all these theories on what they like. But guess what? If the website is not for them, they are not the output's customer or client. So therefore, they have to know that and hopefully get out of the way. And this applies to founders too, where people add features to apps without thinking about the end user. For example, a founder comes up with an idea without coordinating with his product team. It creates a disconnect and might result in a result that isn't best for the client or customer.
Even if you produce the output, you need to get it to the right person at the right time.
The founder's misconception
So going into the example, your app is not for you, like as a founder. It's for your users. So you have to know that your users are the client of that. And this goes for developers as well, where people will use something convenient for them, not for you but for your user.
Your website is not for you as a business owner but more for your customers. It's to make their lives easier, in the sense that they need some solution from you. And your website communicates to them and make it clear how you help. So your preference should be on something other than your desired experience. It should be on the feelings that you want your client to have. Not you. But if you don't know who your client is, or worse yet, you don't have a client. Then this problem manifests itself.
The third step is you have to know what your inputs are.
- What inputs do you need to produce the output for your client?
- With whom do you need to speak?
- What do you need to have on hand as far as ingredients are required?
- What specifications, requirements, sign-offs, and such do you need?
To be prepared, you must capture and have them on hand before you start, or at least know when you need them in your process. We'll talk about that in the next step. You don't want to wait for inputs because you didn't think to capture them beforehand.
The fourth step is your process.
Your business should not rely on one-off activities; you need systems and standard solutions to common problems, and therefore, you need processes.
The concept of processes and process improvement, and subsequently, process mapping, became prominent in the manufacturing space, with strategies like six-sigma making it more widespread.
Whenever a blank happens, do A, B, and C to solve it. That is a process.
It's a step-by-step, reproducible, clearly stated, and understandable sequence of actions that lead to a predictable result. And it would help if you had these around the things you're doing. So if you look at how we're moving right now, you know your output, who it's for, and the inputs you need to create those outputs for that person. And you now know the steps you must take to do that.
Your weakest link without clear communication
The process can be your weakest link if you don't have them well defined. Your business could be one sick day away from a bad day, a single resignation away from a bad quarter, or worse. Because if your operations are unclear and can't be trained by people on your team, then it's only as good as the person doing it. And if that person is good, then the process is good. If that person is terrible, then you have a terrible process on your hands.
Step five, your sources and your supplier
- Who is going to give you the inputs that you need?
- Can you name them?
- Do you know how long it will take you to get hold of them?
- Are there items you need to order?
- Do you have any supply chain considerations that you have to remember here?
Consider these concerns when considering where your sources and suppliers will come from. So in the last step, when we were talking about the inputs, we talked about needing a sign-off. So if you need a sign-off from your CEO, he's usually away on business most of the week. You finished a project on Monday, but he will not be back on Friday. So you're now stuck with a four-day lag because you needed the source for your input. The supplier of your sign-off was absent. And this applies when people go on vacation. This applies when supply chain issues arise, especially with the world the way it got after everything in 2020. And this happens with not just shipping materials and goods across the globe. But it also happens when you need someone.
Plan ahead for people and things
Let's say you need someone to decide for you to go forward. But that person is stuck in an all-day offsite meeting with no technology. That's still a supply chain issue. You have to think about anything that blocks you from moving forward as a potential supply chain problem. Knowing your suppliers for your inputs will enable you to serve your clients, internal and external better.
You have to consider these things early. For example, someone's going to be away on vacation. Whatever it is, you need to know. This is where well-intentioned teams end up missing deadlines. But this step is covered.
You will have everything on hand when you cover it with this step of looking at who your sources are and your suppliers. And that's really what this defines for your team and your people and contractors that communication can shift to when real problems arise. So your people can raise flags and communicate them when they need it. Right, because they will know which step at which stage and which part is missing.
These steps are the key to getting clarity around outputs, customers, deliverables, and processes so you can know what you need to do repeatedly, which can also help with your Standard Operating Procedures.
Useful for SOPs
And this is something you need to cover even for your SOPs. Clear communication shows in a well-written SOP. Omit the listed things, and your SOP will still have the same problems. After all, people needed to learn the necessary sources and supplies. So the solutions are in the steps, follow them, map them out for your team, and that will create the results. You turn around departments, and you will amaze your customers. But you can't skip the steps you can't skip steps.
Are you too close to see?
The question is, though, are you close? Are you too close to see the problems?
You might not know, but in most cases, if you're the business owner or the department owner, you're too close to the problem. So you can't see everything that you take into consideration without externalizing it.
Usually, externalizing it is running through that step with someone else that's not you so they can capture it and tell you when you skip the step. Because for yourself, omitting that extra step doesn't mean anything. But for the person that is trying to execute that thing.
When you skip that step, it's a problem. And this is where having good process-minded people come in to help you plug those gaps. So you can find them on your team. Or you can reach out to my team and me. And we can also help you with a clearer picture of your process.
Once the image is clear, you can share it. The goal is to clearly understand your process and then communicate it to your team. You can share it, train against it, evaluate, test and see if it works. It can inform what you capture on your standard operating procedures for your company. And now you can have predictable and stable results. And that's what it's all about. It's predictable, consistent results around the areas of your business that matter. And that's it for today. Thank you for tuning in. These five steps help you to move your business forward. Improve your team's productivity, and banish all communication issues around the things you need for your business to succeed.
P.S. The whole is to improve your team's productivity and I have created a step-by-step checklist that walks you to do just that - Get it here.
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