21 August 2005

Rules for communication

Here are some basic rules of communication that could improve communication flow in a business. Some of them are fundamental “rules of engagement” that could set the overall tone for a company. Others are specific concepts for categorizing and measuring communication flow.

The idea is that the link between communication and action can be measured and reported. We do this for financial and product flows: Why not do it for our communication?

These ideas map to my concept of a new kind of email tool. Part of the idea requires that the sender classify every message as one of the following types: Information, Request, Order or Confirmation.

Rule 1: IROC.
  • Classify all communications as one of the following:

  • Information: No reply required.

  • Request: Reply options are “Yes” or “No” (System asks “why?”). No response is considered “No”

  • Order: Reply options are “Accepted” or “Rejected” (System asks “why?”). System follows up aggressively when it gets no response.

  • Confirmation: Reply options are “Yes” and “No” (System asks “Why?)

Rule 2: Passive approval.
“Yes” is assumed for all intra-company requests unless you hear “no” within 48 hours. “No” requires a rationale.

Rule 3: Brevity.
Use short words. Use short sentences. Use short paragraphs. Be clear.

Rule 4: If it wasn’t said by email, it wasn’t said. “I told you on the phone last week,” “I told you in the hall” etc., are unacceptable.

If you have questions post them here – I will answer them.

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Eric Robert Anderson said...

This is an excellent post.

David Nickelson said...

Dave [great name by the way]
I manage high end, very complex construction projects. The project I am working on now is the first my company has ever run completely by computer [and thus email]. We use a number of tools to manage the project, schedule, and paperwork [email] flow.

First and foremost, I believe all communications should have at their base common courtesy. I have found that the best way to get the best from people is to be clear, courteous and to the point. We are all busy...

We back everything up in email. We confirm work to be performed, designs put forth, directives from customers....ad infinitum. You are correct..it does not exist if it is not in writing in some format or another.

My dear mother, God rest her soul was an English teacher. She gained her masters in Semantics, and I was steeped in the importance of good, clear communication.

Dandy site.


Jonathan Blundell said...

An issue I have within my company is getting people to actually use e-mail. I sent a request to our bookkeeper and a week later I was told, I don't use e-mail. So I had to hunt the e-mail down, print it out and fax it to her. My boss (the owner) read an email I sent him (asking for advice), blew up and accused me of being wrong and not listening to other people's advice and opinion - after I just asked a question on which direction he wanted me to go - and never gave him my opinion. He finally said - don't email, call me. Yet everything I tell him, he wants in writing so he won't forget it. I don't understand.
But great post.