Lean Communication – 3 Teaching Tips to Steer Clear

Today, Dec. 30, is my birthday.  It also happens to be my mom and dad’s anniversary.  Happy Birthday to me.  Happy Anniversary mom and dad.

I remember telling this fact to a school teacher of mine (when I was young and naive), but never could quite get the story to be told in the ‘proper’ way.

“My mom and dad got married on the same day I was born”, I told my teacher.  Although I was telling the truth by stating what I knew to be an obvious fact, the message I was trying to convey was not being heard in the context mom and dad would have preferred.

“Oh…really?…Stevie”, would be the normal reply.  “Well I guess that makes you a special little boy, now doesn’t it, Stevie?”

Darn straight I’m special.

Mom, and especially dad, always loved me most due to the fact I was born ‘just in time’ before the end of the year (I was destined to wind up working in the field of lean).  They only had to deal with me for just a day or two, before claiming me as a tax write-off for the entire year.  No offense to my brother or sisters…facts are facts.

For the record, I was born Dec. 30, 1964.  My parents were married Dec. 30, 1961.  “See teacher?…I was born on the same day my parents got married!”.

Isn’t that just how some of our communications get messed up when we’re trying to teach lean?  Or anything else for that matter!  We think we’re saying all the right words, or providing the right training; but something goes awry in the translation.

As we head into 2011, let’s make sure the message we’re working so hard to proclaim is received clearly.  There’s nothing magical here.  Just remember in order to present a clear message you need:

  1. a clear mission – what exactly do you want your audience to learn?  How big is the scope of knowledge you wish to unveil during this opportunity to learn?  Knowing the answers to these simple questions will allow you to include all the right stuff, and keep out the things you don’t need.
  2. a clear vision – think of your audience.  Is there anything that needs to be better understood before you pursue the mission?  Don’t be afraid to ask your audience questions.  Are we alright?  OK to proceed? Knowing your audience is ready for the mission gives you a confidence boost and allows you to deliver the message with conviction.
  3. a clear strategy – don’t assume having a clear vision means your audience is ready for everything you’ve got!  Let them know how you plan on unfolding the mission.  Yes…I said plan!  Plan out ahead – How many steps or sections should the material be divided into?  What’s the best order to communication these steps?  Answering these straightforward questions helps provide a clean outline to follow.

Since the holidays are in full swing and we’re so close to New Year’s, I’ll throw in a lean communication bonus tip – Use the PDCA cycle to improve your communication skills.  Plan a clear strategy as described above.  Do your best to communicate the ‘mission’ by presenting a clear strategy and vision.  Check with some (or all) of your audience soon after your presentation.  Ask what could make your message and methods betterAct on your audience’s suggestions!  Experiment with implementing the feedback you get.

You might be surprised at how clear your communication becomes.

Have any stories (lean, or other) that involve mixed-up communication?  I’d love to hear them!  Have more tips on better communication?  Share them with a comment!


About Steve Martin - theThinkShack

Hey there...I'm Steve. I built theThinkShack...a virtual hideaway about Lean Thinking and how it Connects to Everyday Life.
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2 Responses to Lean Communication – 3 Teaching Tips to Steer Clear

  1. Mark Welch says:

    Good to see you back in the saddle posting again, Steve! Good message about using PDCA to communicate. This is applicable throughout a lean journey, but really tragic if it doesn’t happen from the outset.

    While you’re on the topic of birthdays, mine is Sept. 3, which often falls on LABOR Day, so my Mom got double duty that day. She got the full 24 hours worth, too!

    • Thanks Mark.
      I love the PDCA cycle…especially my ‘SPIN’ on the subject!

      My family is good at ‘special’ birthdays.
      Our youngest daughter was born on Jan. 15th…MARTIN Luther King Jr’s birthday.
      No relation.

      My dad was born in Boston, Sept. 22, 1938. Also known as the day of The Great Hurricane in New England. The power kept going out during my grandmother’s labor. Nurses were leaving, etc. She somehow managed with little assistance…and my dad was born safe.
      Lucky for me.

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