Clarity in Directions

I recently saw some statistics that said 14% of a 40 hour work week is wasted due to poor communication between managers and employees.  So often this shows up in the instructions that people are given when assigned a task.  Often the results do not match the expectation at the time instructions were given.  Why is that?

The person giving the directions believes they are clear in their communication and yet something goes wrong.  There are typically four reasons why this is the case.

  1. The vision of what is required is not shared clearly.
  2. Instructions are not clear, steps are uncertain.
  3. Different perceptions of what is acceptable.
  4. No feedback to help correct course as needed.

So to improve the performance of tasks there are several steps that you can take to ensure clarity.  These will require a bit more work up front and during execution however, the payoff is in eliminating rework.  Billions of dollars are spent each year reworking things that are not done properly.  Key strategies are:

Vision:  Describe what you expect in terms of the delivered product.  Whenever possible show examples of what a quality product looks like so people understand what to do.

Clarity:  Once you give the instructions ask the person to explain to you what is required.  This gives you the opportunity to correct any misunderstandings that have occurred.

Check-in:  Whenever possible check in during the execution of the task.  See if there are any issues or roadblocks that need to be addressed.  This gives you the opportunity to provide real-time feedback that will help ensure timely and accurate delivery.

By investing in providing meaningful and clear directions to your employees you will improve the overall performance of the team.  Following the three strategies above you will have opportunities to improve your communication skills as well as develop the skills of your team.  Providing clarity and feedback allows the team to adjust to changing needs and increases their knowledge of the organizations expectations.

Aristotle Onassis once said “To succeed in business you need to get others to see things as you see them.”  Improving your ability to provide clear instructions will contribute to your success and the success of your team.

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