When to avoid reviewing other people’s papers and presentations

When to avoid reviewing other people’s papers and presentations

Most of us review communication for colleagues.

When doing this, the temptation is to dive in and edit the words on the page.

This involves going straight into the detail, fixing typos, changing words and potentially tightening or removing sentences or whole sections.

In other words, it requires you to work bottom-up to iterate in the weeds to hope you find the message.

This is time-consuming and messy, and inevitably leads to more rework and less clarity. It means you contribute to what I call the Chain of Pain. See below.


It is also unlikely to drive a fast and effective business outcome.

Here is what I suggest instead.

If you don't know what specific outcome your colleague is shooting for and can't find the main message at a glance …. ‘make like Kissinger'.

He is famous for asking his subordinates the following question before reviewing their work.

“Is this your best work?”.

If yes, great. He'd review it.

If not … he'd ask them to keep working on it before using his time to review.

I hope that helps. More soon.

Kind regards,


Free ‘How to cut rework' MasterClass Monday – Part of Clarity Hub along with weekly in-depth ‘how to' emails, an extensive library of tips, tools, exercises and case studies to lift the quality of your communication.

One month free. Ongoing access is USD25 per month or USD250 per year. Learn more here.

PowerPoint image library – Want to save time preparing complex but attractive PowerPoint concepts? My image library offers 300 cut and paste images. Grab your free sample of 25 or the full 300 images here.


An opportunity to boost your email writing skills

An opportunity to boost your email writing skills

I laughed when working for the first time with a senior team recently.

I asked them to do their pre-work and then come ready to collaborate on a modest piece of communication.

An email would be fine, I said. That way we can embed the concepts without being overwhelmed with problem solving.

After that we can move to solve bigger problems.

They followed the brief to a T and brought an email for us to work on.

Or so they said.

The email turned out to be a nudge to their peers on the Executive Committee to think holistically about a $1bn problem.

As you might imagine, we were quickly immersed in detailed problem solving and not ‘just thinking through an email'.

Preparing the ExCo then took a further three two-hour sessions!

So, not all emails are ‘just emails'.

They do however provide a hidden and often ignored opportunity to build our thinking skills.

My teeny tiny email course explains how.

In 10 minutes you will learn four key concepts.

It is available at no cost.

>> Access it here.

I hope that helps.

Kind regards,

Write emails that are easy to action

Write emails that are easy to action

Emails are a constant challenge.

They are ‘everywhere' in our day to day work and yet often seem too small a communication to invest heavily in.

To help with this challenge I have prepared a short video tutorial offering four techniques for writing emails that are easy to action:

  1. Have an obvious purpose
  2. Grab attention with the subject line
  3. Highlight one visible message
  4. Visualise the message hierarchy

It's short, in keeping with the medium, but offers specific examples to bring these ideas to life.

You can access this free tutorial here >>

I hope that helps. More next week.




I love what I do.

I help senior leaders and their teams prepare high-quality papers and presentations in a fraction of the time.

This involves 'nailing' the message that will quickly engage decision makers in the required outcome.

I leverage 25+ years' experience including

  • learning structured thinking techniques at McKinsey in Hong Kong in the mid 1990s before coaching and training their teams globally as a freelancer for a further 15 years
  • being approved to teach the Pyramid Principle by Barbara Minto in 2009
  • helping CEOs, C-suite leaders and their reports deeply understand their stakeholder needs and communicate accordingly
  • seeing leaders cut the number of times they review major papers by ~30% and teams cut the amount of time they take to prepare major papers by ~20%*
  • watching senior meetings focus on substantive discussions and better decisions rather than trying to clarify the issue

My approach helps anyone who needs to engage senior leaders and Boards.

Recent clients include 7Eleven, KPMG, Mercer, Meta, Woolworths.

Learn more at www.clarityfirstprogram.com


(*) Numbers are based on 2023 client benchmarking results.