Things get a little dirty when humans get involved. In any system, human involvement can sometimes cause delays or issues. Here are some effective communication and facilitation secrets for reliability engineers.
Communication is the exchange of information from one person to another.
Communication requires a sender, a receiver, and a message. Technical professionals (sender) usually believe the decision maker (receiver) cannot understand the message because the decision maker is not as smart as they are. Most of the time, the lack of understanding comes from the noise the sender generates. The burden of effective communication is on the send (technical professional), not the receiver (decision maker).
A facilitated session is a structured meeting in which the meeting leader (the facilitator) guides the participants through a series of predefined steps to arrive at a result that is created, understood, and accepted by all participants.
Things usually unravel when the team leader tries to assume the role of meeting leader. After all, guiding participants through a series of predefined steps is what a manager does every day – right? Wrong!
Facilitation is a separate specialty within the larger context of leading, guiding, directing, and collaborating with people. Not all facilitators are good day-to-day people managers, and not all day-to-day managers are good facilitators. Unless, of course, you stayed at a Holiday Inn.
In systems thinking, we begin with the system outcomes we desire. Then, we evaluate the parts, emphasizing their individual performance and how the components interact as a unit. This type of thinking applies universally to all kinds of systems, including communications systems.
FINESSE and CATER
FINESSE is a one-way communication approach where the burden of effective communication is on the sender, not the receiver. FINESSE is most appropriate when communicating to decision makers where issues have high levels of complexity and uncertainty.
CATER is a two-way communication approach. All aspects of FINESSE are necessary, plus assuring participants have compatible knowledge and multiple quality feedback channels. CATER is most appropriate when facilitating collaborative efforts among technical professionals.
Effective Communication is the #1 Thing
Effective communication is the one thing that makes your life better, more fulfilling, and more rewarding. That is equally true in personal relationships and business.
Keep it simple. If you can convey the same information in fewer words, do it. If you can use fewer sentences, use fewer. If you can avoid tangents and parenthetical comments, avoid them. Only about 20 percent of what you normally communicate provides 80 percent of the influence on others.
The Soft Skills Matter
In any system, humans “gum up” the process. The soft skills matter. Among well-trained technical professionals, soft skills matter most. This article provides a few of the essentials for effective communication and facilitation for reliability engineers.
Communicating with FINESSE is a not-for-profit community of technical professionals dedicated to being highly effective communicators and facilitators. Learn more about our publications, webinars, and workshops. Join the community for free.
JD Solomon is the author of Communicating Reliability, Risk & Resiliency to Decision Makers: How to Get Your Boss’s Boss to Understand and Facilitating with FINESSE: A Guide to Successful Business Solutions. JD Solomon Inc. provides solutions for facilitation, asset management, and program development at the nexus of facilities, infrastructure, and the environment.