Lean Conversations 1: Can good communication reduce waste?

Lean Principles I’m getting lean. Alas, this is not about my body. It’s something I’ll call “lean communication.” I’m not about to preach on short sentences and plain words, though that can be part of it. I’m convinced that good communication reduces waste.

In manufacturing, the concept of “lean” describes practices that use fewer resources to provide greater value to customers. Anything customers don’t value enough to pay for is considered “waste,” something to eliminate. Lean practices originated in manufacturing in the 1940s, when Taiichi Ohno introduced them at Toyota. Over the years, they’ve been adopted and adapted in many contexts, including lean startups and lean software development.

When I look at the ideas I use with my communication coaching clients, I see a lot of overlap with lean principles, particularly those set out by the Lean Enterprise Institute. I’ve paraphrased them, but you can find the original version here.

1. Establish value from the customer’s perspective

This is my top tip for communication. I never tire of sharing it because it works so well. The audience for any communication might be considered your “customers.” The more you can make your communication about them and their needs, the more likely you are to be listened to, heard and understood. Whether you’re addressing one person or 100, in conversation, in presentations, in broadcast or in writing, you can almost never go wrong if you explain your point from the perspective of your audience. You make people care about your message by answering their question, “What’s in it for me?” (WIFM) That’s the value will it have for them. When you talk about anything they don’t value – no matter how much you love it – you waste your time and theirs. (more…)

Give them a reason to pay attention!

Cartoon about a conversation that's not workingHere’s a post from Sue’s writing blog that applies to conversation as well as writing.

In my line of work, eavesdropping is research. That may sound like a lame excuse for (rudely?) listening in on other people’s conversations; however, sometimes, they’re simply too loud to ignore. A research opportunity showed up, this week, as I overheard a chat between some people we’ll call Manny and Franny.  . .

Read the rest at Sue’s writing site.

Yes, It’s OK To Say “No!” Revisited

Once upon a time, I was an over-committed community volunteer headed for burnout.  Things were bad.  I felt angry and resentful. Any joy I had ever found in giving my time to charitable organizations I admired was long gone.

I dropped all activities but one (my professional association) and learned how to put boundaries around my giving. And I wrote about my learning in an article called Yes, It’s OK To Say “No!” I regularly get requests from publishers and other coaches and consultants for permission to use it in their work.

Today, I had a reason to revisit the article.  I received an e-mail from someone we’ll call “Lori,” who finds that the newsletter she’s producing for a volunteer organization is taking twice as long to do as she was led to expect.  She was looking for advice.  She wrote: “I’m inclined to keep my word and trudge on, but this last month’s issue took away from my family and job responsibilities. If I say no and stop doing the
newsletter, does this set a bad example for my kids, telling them it’s OK to quit after I’ve committed to something? ” It was this concern about what sort of lessons we teach through our behaviours that touched me the most.


The Reference Letter – Step by Step

Pencil_sharpening_2How do you capture the essence of a real person on paper?  That was a client’s question, this week. He’d been asked to write a testimonial letter for someone he likes and respects and wanted to know if there’s a format for such things.

I’d never seen a formula, though I’ve written scads of these things for employees and colleagues applying for jobs, school admission or nonprofit board positions. Since some sort of structure helps almost anyone write almost anything, I documented a process for my young client – and for you – in the following eight steps.


Try? There is no Try!

Many of you will know that I am in the throes of authoring a book about workplace communication.  You may not know that I’m trying to complete it by the end of February, just 13 short days and nights from this moment.

Talk To Me – Workplace Conversations That Work, blends fiction and nonfiction, weaving a story around and through the communication ideas to put them in a ‘real world’ context. It’s a book with an accompanying learning program and a slew of downloadable recordings and worksheets to support it. Mercifully, these extra bits are not due by month’s end.

This morning, as I was trying to write one of five chapters required this week, I interrupted myself to coach a young entrepreneur of unusual talent. Today was not her best day. She acknowledged that she’s trying to be a certain way. And she’ll try to think bigger. And she’ll try to put some ideas together. And she’ll try to do something about it.

And all of a sudden, I could hear the great Jedi guru, Yoda, screaming at me, at her, and at the world, just as he screamed at Luke Skywalker. “Try? There is no Try! There is only Do and Not Do.