Comms clangers – dropping the ball

I don’t always get it right, and it’s not always “someone else’s fault”. Miscommunication is a serious matter, and yet mistakes will happen.

It seems that there have been communication clangers all over the place of late. No, let me rephrase that and take responsibility; I’ve made mistakes in the communications I’ve sent out recently to managers and leaders.

But, as they say, ‘if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not working hard enough‘; but my mistakes have been in addition to process and output mistakes by team mates and colleagues. Seems we’re under stress and the quality of our work is degrading.

The thing with communications, both internal and external (I manage internal channels currently) is that any mistake, or any controversial detail, is immediately noticeable. The quality of one’s work is on show for all to see. A typo becomes a serious matter and requires a discussion about quality. Publishing or distributing ‘draft 4’ of a message (even under the best orders) when ‘draft 5’ is the ‘real’ version (and buried in someone’s inbox) will kick-off a fairly major review whereby ‘lessons must be learnt’.

Approval cycles are seen by everyone as incredibly important, and yet they are not formalised or managed. The ‘review’ is of course a free for all over email, the ‘phone and red pen on paper.

So yes, mistakes will happen. The ‘previous version’ of a quote from your CEO will get published on your intranet. The numbers against your Key Performance Indicators will be last year’s (because someone ‘copied n pasted’ them, and no one checked if they were correct) and that paragraph that you swore you deleted will creep back in and get published on the front page. Sigh.

Micro-management is not the answer, but well maintained approval cycles would help, and a single owner, responsible for the content of the communiqué would be awesome. I’m dreaming though, yeah?

You might want to consider my idea about separating the ‘content’ from the ‘style’. All comments welcome.


Photo credit: Christoper Isherwood

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  1. I agree (as I do with most stuff you write). It’s tempting sometimes to become paralysed, and lost under the weight of the potential disasters lurking out there, and I think sometimes it’s the only sane response. Yes, paralysed AND lost. So quite held up then.

    And who’s got the time for all those checks and re-checks not to mention engaging with “busy and important” types and getting their attention – again – to sign off versions down the line.

    We walk a hard road my friend between indulging our own (well, I speak only for myself) almost unnatural love of checking and accuracy, and those wonderful “publish and be damned” moments. I love the clarity you bring to our business.

  2. Hi Katy, great to hear you like the stuff I write, thank you.

    I hate mistakes :(

    Yet I make them; I’m human but I hate it when I take my eyes of the ball and let something slip through the net.

    Oh well, we strive don’t we?

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