The one thing is right under your nose. The one thing is the game changer for your career because it enables others to understand the complex and uncertain world where you work. The one thing requires understanding the outcomes you seek before optimizing the separate components.
A system is a collection of interrelated or interacting parts, each of which can affect the behavior or outcomes of the whole. One defining property of a system is that it provides a function that none of the parts can accomplish by themselves. The corollary is that a system is not the sum of the parts but the product of their interactions.
Simple examples include the mechanical advantage gained from a system of pulleys or a gearbox. Sports teams or work units are examples of human systems. Systems are essential aspects of our everyday lives.
Analysis means to break into parts. Due to their complexity (consisting of many parts), we break systems into parts to simplify the evaluation of the whole.
The irony is the performance of the parts in isolation does not matter. It is the interaction of the parts that matter. This is why we cannot take the best of the best from each different car manufacturer and make the most incredible car on the market. The interaction of the parts matters more than each part in isolation is why sports teams like the New York Yankees fail even though they hire the best players each year.
In systems thinking, we begin with the system outcomes we desire. Then we evaluate the parts, emphasizing both their individual performance and, more importantly, how the components interact as a unit. This type of thinking applies universally to all kinds of systems, including communications systems and Plans for Communication.
Input-Process-Output (IPO) Model
Most technical professionals are familiar with IPO models. Many process improvement professionals are familiar with IPO models too. This same tool applies to effective communication. IPO Models, whether maps or tables, are a valuable tool to help you define and understand the problem.
Using an IPO model when developing more effective communications is an initial, high-level step. The main purpose is to encourage systems approaches when preparing to communicate problems with high levels of complexity and uncertainty.
The following provides the relevance of the IPO model to Plans for Communication:
Outcome(s): Why are you being asked to communicate with the decision maker? It is probably one thing. You will likely have 10 minutes or less to provide it. Stay humble and keep it simple. The decision maker is looking for a few pieces of information to help them allocate resources. They care little about how smart you are, how long it took you to do the work, or what cool new techniques you used.
Outputs: What communication tools and approaches will be used? Think about the presentation forum, whether it is a written report, live presentation, virtual presentation, video recording, or a combination.
Inputs: What are the inputs that will be converted to communicated information? These inputs include source data, subject matter experts, pictures, graphs, videos, interviews. Your mind should also be thinking about the communication quality of the inputs.
Processes: What are the essential communication tools and approaches that will be used to convert the inputs into outputs. What internal and external resources will be needed, such as copy editors, videographers, and graphic artists? How will you and your teamwork convert the technical inputs into communicated outputs?
Controls: What are the corporate or industry standards that will be used to convert the inputs into communicated outputs? This can include standard communication templates or reviews by communication specialists from a corporate perspective. From an industry standpoint, this can include things like standard templates for specific types of analysis such as FMEAs or graphic limitations of specific industry-standard modeling software.
Feedback: What type and frequency of review will be used for the communications aspects. Problems with high degrees of complexity and uncertainty take time. The communication aspects should begin simultaneously as the analysis and help the technical team keep the end in mind.
What To Do
This initial step is intended to provide a preliminary framework of what is to come. This first activity should be informal but also written for future reference and modification.
- Decide whether the IPO exercise will be conducted individually or with a small team.
- Evaluate the intended outcome of the communication.
- Complete the five components of the IPO model.
- Convert scratch notes into a presentable working draft.
- Share the information with the executive sponsor and get feedback.
- Present the working draft at the technical team’s chartering meeting or a milestone meeting
The One Thing
By now, you have figured out the one thing that will make your communication more effective is systems thinking. Communication has many interrelated parts that produce an outcome that none of the individual parts can produce on their own. The good news is that you do not have to best looking, most eloquent, or smartest person in the room to be an effective communicator. The key approach to effective communication is systems thinking.
J.D. Solomon, Inc provides services at the nexus of facilities, infrastructure, and the environment. Visit our site to learn more about how we can help you be more effective.