How to Reduce Waste with Clever Communication?

BY MARKUS SPRUNCK

A lot of time and energy is wasted every day due to inefficient communication in development projects, maintenance teams and IT operations units. This short article is about: "How to reduce this kind of waste?"

Motivation

Many developers tend to write unnecessary, badly structured and too long mails. Maybe, one reason for this is that they like to explain every detail before they to get to the heart of the message.

Sample of a poor a message

Imagine you get the following message:

"Joe called and said that that he can't attend the meeting on Tuesday 3pm - every other day and time in this week would be possible for him. Mike says, he prefers a later day maybe on Wednesday or Thursday – but not before 11:30h. The assistant of Jane says, she won't return from her business trip to London before late Wednesday evening. The conference room is blocked on Wednesday for a one day workshop with a customer, but from Wednesday 2pm it would be free. What do you think?"

If this message sounds like the mails and phone calls you get every day, then you will have a lot of waste to understand the content and find a solution.

The writer makes two main errors (i) a lot of not needed details and (ii) no recommendation has been made. So, it is up to the reader to understand the topic and make a decision.

Figure 1 depicts the structure of this poor message. Unfortunately, the receiver has to read the entire message to understand if the message is important and/or urgent.

Figure 1: Structure of a poor message

Sample of an optimised message

Now the same message in a better structure:

"We should postpone the Thursday meeting to Wednesday 2pm - because Joe could not attend. All others can join the meeting and the room will be available."

If this message sounds like the mails and phone calls you get every day, you are really lucky - you may stop reading now.

In figure 2 the structure of this good message is depicted. The text begins with the key message, and then just two short rationales. A third layer of rationales would be possible, but is not needed in this case.

Figure 2: Structure of an optimized message

Recommendations

  • Identify your personal senders with poor structure and discuss your information needs
  • Always try to use the structure of an optimised message, e.g. take a minute before you do a phone call and try to identify your key message in advance