Wednesday, June 13, 2012


How do you structure communication to ensure the greatest number within the population get the message? 

The effective message will have three components.  In order, those components will:

1            Tell the target audience what you’re going to tell them.

2            Tell the target audience.

3            Tell the target audience what you’ve told them.

Sound repetitive?  If the message is important, that may be just what it takes.

Just for grins, try this: 

Using a sheet of paper placed “landscape” in front of you, draw an east-west line across the middle edge to edge.

Make a row of letters, A through Z, using the tiles from a Scrabble® Game.  No need to use either of the blanks.  You’ll only need twenty-six of the tiles.  Place the letters below the horizontal line in alphabetical order.

Assume that the row of letters represents the universe of people with whom you need to communicate an important message.

Compose a memo including those three sections of text.

Read section one [telling the audience what you’re going to tell them].  As you do this, move all of the vowels north of the line.  This is a smidge under 20% of the population.   

These letters represent the individuals in the organization that are involved and engaged in just about everything.  They are the ones who will figure out the point of your missive right off the bat.  They are essential to both communication and to getting the job done.  Imagine having to communicate any message wtht ny vwls whtsvr.  Move the Y north also, because s/he’s pretty much in that category.  [Note: if you understood “wtht ny vwls whtsvr” in less than a few seconds, you’re probably a vowel yourself.]

Next, read section two [telling the target audience].  As you do this, move any Scrabble tile with a point value less than five north of the line.   

The letters represent the people in the organization that have a lot to do, that may be distracted by the innumerable tasks at hand or issues du jour from some other aspect of their life.  They want to get the message and will get the message, but perform better when the message doesn’t sneak up on them.  Once they’ve received the message, they can go forward with the mission, integral to ensuring its success.

That leaves us with 5 letter tiles: J, K, Q, X and Z.  Again, just fewer than 20% of the population.  Before reading section three [telling the audience what you’ve just told them], consider where our language would be without these letters in our alphabet.   

How would we articulate “jazz,” or “kiss,” or “Quixotic,” or “exotic,” or “zest.”  Or "sex," for that matter!  Some of the most engaging, thought-provoking, sensual and meaningful words we speak employ some of the least used letters. 

These five letter tiles represent not the ne’er-do-well, who-gives-a-damn crowd.  Rather, they represent a creative element whose minds may be off in many directions simultaneously.  They are not multi-taskers; rather, while doing the task, they likely have dendrites engaged in lots of different endeavors.  These represent the if-you-want-to-get-something-done-ask-a-busy-person subgroup.  The first two sections of the memo were simply an effort to get their attention funneled in your direction for long enough to deliver the message.   

The third section, to them, is the message.

In short then:

The first part of the memo or talk alerts all that something important is coming.  (Note to leaders: Make sure that the something coming is important.)

The second part succinctly offers a narrative message, list of steps, procedural outline or management report important to the mission of the organization.

The third part represents the leader’s best effort to ensure everyone gets the message.

A small disclaimer: Should all communication include this repetitive format?  Probably not.  But understand that if the leader doesn’t make every effort to ensure that his or her most creative personnel absorb the critical message, the result of the overall mission will fall short of its potential.


Q:  Scrabble tiles include two blanks with no point value.  What should I do about them?
A:  What benefit are they offering the organization?

© 2012
Church of the Open Road Press

1 comment:

  1. This "Tell 'em what you're gonna tell 'em," etc. is really an old saw that leaders have been employing forever. But the "why" is the part many of us overlook.