In a one-on-one with one of my Foundation Members this week she highlighted the difference between using a topic-driven structure and a message-driven structure when preparing her program briefing.
I share this because I hear leaders setting their teams up to prepare communication this way only to complain that the resulting communication didn't hit the mark.
Let me demonstrate by using the topic-driven strategy here for this email so you can see why it doesn’t deliver a high quality communication.
Here is her original structural outline for her program briefing (which she gave permission for me to share … and which she quickly decided not to proceed with).
- What it is and what it will achieve
- Why we are doing it
- How we are doing it
Here is what is wrong with this approach. It
- Buries the meaning underneath a lot of detail
- Assumes you will read it all (which my experience and research suggests is unlikely)
- Leads to repetition which risks you switching off, being confused and missing important information (and possibly the main point)
See what I mean?
- You can’t skim it to work out what I’m saying
- There isn’t one cohesive story, even though the points are related to each other
- You are left to tie it together for yourself … assuming you are interested enough to do so
- It's hard to repeat to someone else later, which means the author is making themselves work harder than they need to … they aren't turning their audience into their mouthpieces
Here's a challenge for you: the next time you go to sketch an outline for a substantial piece of communication try focusing it around messages rather than topics.
I hope that helps and look forward to bringing you more ideas next week.
Course: Clarity in Problem Solving
This then leads to a bigger problem because you realise – too late – that you don't have the data you need to communicate with your stakeholders.
In my Clarity in Problem Solving course I use my own experience using these techniques in my business as a case study, combined with a simple, high-level structure for you to follow in your own work.
The 7 module course includes detailed notes and exercises with solutions.
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PRESENTED BY DAVINA STANLEY
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.