Are you keeping it simple?
For ten weeks this summer of 2012, Olympic Park was my working home. One day a memo came round. It was about changes to the Load Zones. But what were these Load Zones? It turned out they were the bus stops.
I have a little bit of sympathy for the writer. They’re not the first person to slip into the foreign language of business speak when they’re trying to communicate at work.
It was just the same when I was tracking a gift I’d ordered for my wife online. All was well, said the web page. The dress had been dispatched from the All Saints warehouse and was now at the Sortation Hub. The Sortation Hub? I think they meant the local depot.
I spend a big part of my professional life training people in large organisations to write ‘bus stop’ instead of ‘load zone’ and put ‘local depot’ instead of ‘sortation hub’.
All sorts of organisations are now running programmes to get their people to simplify the way they write to each other and to their stakeholders. Consumer brands, financial services, utilities, professional service companies, regulators, local authorities. They know that writing to be understood rather than writing to show off or to confuse will do them a power of good. Better reputations. Better relationships with customers. And better sales because, as Seth Godin said: “The overwhelmed consumer will refuse”. There are big efficiency gains too. When the customer doesn’t need to phone to ask what the letter meant. Or when you can act on a colleague’s memo without needing to read it three times.
People are much better at writing simply and clearly than you might think. They just need some help to de clutter. Like the Procurement Manager who asked colleagues to populate his spread sheet when he really meant fill it in.
There’s a big message for leaders here – especially ones who communicate with far flung teams by e mail as often as they do by word of mouth. If you want to inspire people and make clear what you want them to do, your words need to be simple, clear and human. Ask them to go to the Load Zone or the Sortation Hub and they might never get there, let alone reach a crucial objective!
Leadership nudge: How clearly you are you communicating – are you keeping it simple?
By Chris van Schaick
Learn more about the author of this article, Chris Van Schaick