Necessary Words – The Art of Lean Communication

words

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” – Hans Hofmann

Lean Communication.

Imagine Lean Communication as the art of saying what is necessary.

Words that yield the desired result.

And yes, it is possible to over-communicate.

Over-communication in the form of a confusing narrative that leaves the listener uncertain as to the point we are trying to make and the action we want them to take.

There is a natural temptation to over-explain, over-context, over-share and over-sell. We all wrestle with the underlying feeling that to make sure we are understood we must cover all the possible angles.

“Just say what it is and what you want then go from there.”

I’ve used this simple phrase many times in coaching my team and most often when coaching myself.


Use case: Problem Solving

“This happened and it caused this problem. We need to decide what steps we are going to take to resolve the situation.” Done.

One of the biggest challenges with problem-solving is the need to vent. Every problem becomes an opportunity to point out all the ways we are frustrated. By the time we get around to working on a solution people are worn out and checked out.

Use case: Feedback

“This is what I observed. This is the impact it is having on the organization or process. We need to talk about why this is occurring and what we can do to change the situation.” Done.

One of the biggest challenges with feedback is the temptation to soften the story by over explaining or leading with a compliment. In trying to manage the emotional context of the discussion we leave the person confused about our intent.

Use case: Goal Setting

“Our goal is to achieve X within Y timeframe. Let’s talk about why this is important and how we can work together to achieve this outcome.” Done.

One of the biggest challenges with goal-setting is the belief that goals must be fully explained before they are discussed. A more simple approach is to let understanding emerge through dialogue.


The common thread in these examples is the opening statement. The goal is to clearly communicate the focus and intent of the discussion.

Think of it like taking a trip with our team. We must start on the same plane if we are going to arrive together.

Communication works best when we share a common starting point. That’s the key. From there, the conversation can move in different directions and open up new pathways for understanding and progress.

The leader’s role is to channel this creative energy towards the desired outcome by keeping the team or person focused on the point of the discussion and guiding the conversation to a course of action.

Here’s an easy way to remember this lean communication flow:

  • Lead with simplicity and clarity.
  • Ensure we are starting from the same place.
  • Allow the conversation to expand.
  • Navigate to the desired outcome.

Complex situations need simple communication.

8 comments

    1. Thanks Cynthia! I appreciate your kind words and I’m grateful for your positive message. You are a wonderful influence on the many people you reach.

      Reply

    1. Thank you Belinda. i’m glad you found these ideas useful. I would love to hear about your experience when you put them into practice.

      Reply

  1. This is perfect. I am dealing with this in a personal situation with a family member right now also. Great advice for work and personal interactions.

    Reply

  2. Yes, straight to the point, problem, and solution. Over-communication will slow down results.

    Reply

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