#4 Avoid the Chain of Pain so you gain faster approvals

One simple process helps you to gain agreement on your messaging fast

I work with lots of groups, often from large organisations, who want to improve the clarity and impact of their communication.

Recently, I worked with an IT team from an energy company and they – like most clients – laughed with embarrassment when I showed them my diagram describing what I call The Chain of Pain.

I began by asking them if they had a name for the process they used to socialise the ideas in a piece of communication and they laughed and said they did: chaos.

Does that sound familiar?

Is this how it works in your organisation?

Let me describe how it works and offer an alternative way to socialise your message.

How the Chain of Pain works

The chain can be long or short, but typically includes these steps.

#1 – Someone asks for a paper to be written: either an ad-hoc one on a particular topic or a routine monthly, quarterly or annual report.

#2 – The draft is then circulated via one of many possible collaboration tools, most likely email and the relevant stakeholders add words or paragraphs here and there and remove others.

#3 – The document does a number of rounds and the end product is a mishmash of lots of people’s views that dilutes the intended message so that there is hardly any message at all, just a lot of ‘stuff’.

This process is time consuming and frustrating for all involved and often leads to the audience – a leadership team, steering committee or technical forum – coming back with more questions than decisions so that the process can repeat several times before an outcome is reached.

Here's a visual before I offer an alternative.

Here's an alternative way to approach socialising your message

What if I told you this was not necessary, and that adopting the So What Strategy not only leads to clearer more impactful communication, it can also cut the amount of time taken to prepare communication by at least half? Often more.  

Here's how it works:

#1 – Draft your ideas as a one-page storyline. This involves specific elements that enable your audience to easily find the main point of view and then navigate their way through the supporting ideas. It also helps you work out what that main point of view actually is.

#2 – Share your storyline with colleagues as a one-pager. Ask for their view, test the logic and the structure. Make sure they agree with the way you have drawn out your messaging, and that each message is in a sensible place. Double check the synthesis and messaging is still accurate and has not been ‘broken' by others' suggestions, re-crafting and re-testing where needed.

#3 – Prepare your communication. Once your thinking is clear, you will be able to prepare your final deliverable really quickly. Interestingly, sometimes the one-pager is enough and a full-blown paper or PowerPoint turns out to be unnecessary.

To learn how to put our alternative approach into practice, grab yourself a copy of The So What Strategy and dive into our free Clarity With Impact course that comes with it when you order directly from us.

You may also like to start using our seven storyline patterns that come with the book bundle.

I hope you have enjoyed this email series.

Talk soon,

Next step - Learn more about the So What Strategy

This short and powerful book provides a go-to strategy to help you clarify your thinking so you can communicate complex messages clearly. The  So What Strategy framework has been tested on thousands of professionals and is proven to be suited to the vast majority of professional communication settings.

This Tip was prepared by Davina Stanley, founder of The Clarity First Program and author of The So What Strategy.

Davina has been helping experts communicate complex ideas for more than 20 years.

She began this work when a Communication specialist at McKinsey & Company and has since helped experts of all kinds strengthen their communication skills.

She lives in Sydney Australia, having previously lived and worked in Hong Kong, Tokyo and New York. 

More from this series …