Is your paper really for noting?

Is your paper really for noting?

Hello Davina,

TLDR …..
1. Thank you for the LinkedIn follows. I very much appreciate your support as I build my profile on that platform.
2. The March BoardPaper Bootcamp is open. Learn more here.
3. Today's topic: Papers for noting …. really?

_______________________________

I had a terrific question from a client recently that highlighted a common strategic challenge.

How do we structure our messaging for a ‘paper for noting’?

Adrian's was concerned he didn’t have a ‘big insight’, but that ‘noting' felt wrong.

He wanted to prepare his board to hear a business case in a couple of months’ time.

So, what to do?

We landed seeking endorsement for his plan to prepare a business case as the best way to give the paper purpose while raising visibility of the problem. Here’s why we made that choice:

  • Asking them to ‘note’ that we have a problem without any indication of what the team was preparing to do about it seemed lacking. The team wasn’t ready to deliver a solution, but this option would leave the Board empty handed.
  • Asking permission to prioritise preparing the business case to find a solution to the problem was unnecessary. Adrian had full authority, particularly when supported by the Senior Leadership Team, to prepare the business case without asking for permission. So, we landed on a third path.
  • Asking the Board to endorse their plan to prepare a business case gave the paper purpose and raised visibility of the problem. This strategy let the Board know that a problem existed, demonstrated early that the team was taking action and provided clarity around the next steps.

I hope that helps. More next week.

Davina

 

 

WANT MORE?

Free report-writing MasterClass tomorrow on Feb 26 – Part of Clarity Hub along with an extensive library of tips, tools, exercises and case studies. Includes weekly email with in-depth advice, including the takeaways from the case study I mentioned here and the full case study itself.

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

March BoardPaper Bootcamp now half full – Work with me in a small group and in 1-1 coaching to prepare papers and presentations that engage senior leaders and boards. Maximum cohort of 15. 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.

 

When NOT to seek strategy approval

When NOT to seek strategy approval

How often do you outline your desired outcome as follows:

I want the Board to approve my ABC strategy?


While this is a good place to start and most likely true in the general sense, it’s not sufficient.

A general statement like this does not set you up to truly understand your audience’s issues and concerns.

This in turn does not set you up to tell a story that resonates.

Instead, I encourage you to be more specific so you flush out the issues that you must address to get your strategy across the line. Here are the questions I ask:

  1. Strategy: What is distinctive about this strategy and its implementation?
  2. Situation around the strategy: Where does this strategy ‘sit’ within the broader organisation and industry ecosystem?
  3. Stakeholder attitudes: How will stakeholder histories and hot buttons impact your ability to ‘sell’ the strategy?


Answering these questions will help you define a much more nuanced ‘purpose’ that will in turn set you up to prepare a communication that gets you the outcome you need.

I hope that helps and look forward to having more ideas for you after the Christmas break.

Kind regards,
Davina


PS – For deeper insight into what sits inside each of these questions as well as how and when to use them, register for the Clarity Hub.

 

A trap to avoid when engaging senior leaders

A trap to avoid when engaging senior leaders

When we talk about deeply understanding our audience, what do we really mean?

Is defining our audience as ‘the board’ or ‘the senior leadership team’ sufficient?

If your issue is uncontentious, then likely yes.

However, more often than not, leadership groups not only bring different experiences but different perspectives that we must understand if we are to engage them.

This week I helped a senior group untangle their own engagement strategy for a board paper and an issue emerged that will help you too.

The team had missed an important nuance when thinking about their individual board member's attitudes toward their paper.

They had not thought deeply enough about each person as an individual rather than part of the group.

To learn more specific ideas about how to avoid this problem, register for the Clarity Hub  and visit the Stakeholder Management area.

I hope that helps.

Dav

PS – Here are some recent podcast episodes you can find either using the links below or by visiting your favourite podcasting player.

Recent episodes of Cutting Through

  1. Anthony Wilson – Risk Management = Change Management
  2. Richard Medcalf – Making Time for Strategy
  3. Damien Woods – Baking Learning & Growth into BAU
  4. Kerry Bulter – Helping Leaders ‘shift testing left' to derisk projects
  5. Daniel Musson – A Case Study in Digitial Transformation
  6. Carolyn Noumertzis – How to help a senior leader come back from a misstep
  7. Cerise Uden – How to hit the ground running in a big new role
  8. Adam Bennett – Communicating Great Change
  9. Lisa Carlin – TurboCharge your Transformation


Please do tell your friends and colleagues about them too.

What to recommend to senior leaders and Boards?

What to recommend to senior leaders and Boards?

Do you wonder what to write those boxes in the admin section of your senior paper or presentation?

There will be the basics like date, author, paper type, attachments etc.

Buried in the middle of this list will be one that says ‘Recommendation'.

I'd like to help you deliver valuable insight right from the get go rather than following administrative protocol for its own sake. 
Here is what not to do and a better alternative.

Don't say nothing …

Don't repeat what's in the ‘paper type' box that asks whether it is a paper to offer a recommendation, stimulate a discussion or for noting.

An example would be to say:

That the Committee NOTE this report

This only leaves them asking … but what is in the report? What does it say?

Offer insight right from the get go …

Your audience is hungry to know what you think. They want to know your insights.

Here is an example:

That the Committee NOTE that the risks for ABC issue remain within risk appetite across all dimensions, except Area 1 and Area 2 which have been affected by DEF issue.

This approach addresses the formality by explaining that the paper be noted – and adds value by explaining what in particular they are noting.

To get more ideas on how to better engage senior leaders and Boards, join the Clarity Hub. It's low on cost but big on resources, all designed to help you lift the quality of your communication and board papers. Learn more here >>

I hope that helps. More soon.
Davina


PS – You might also like to check out my  Board Paper Bootcamp. I will be offering one cohorts several times a year, suitable for a range of timezones.

Do you really need to INFORM your audience?

Do you really need to INFORM your audience?

I write this to you having just wrapped up a coaching session where a perennial question arose.

My client suggested that the paper we were discussing needed to inform her peers.

But, did it really?

Why did she need to inform her peers about this particular set of facts?

It turned out the real objective was to build trust that the current efforts to increase the time employees spend in the office were working.

Once it was clear that trust rather than knowledge was the goal, we could make the messaging much more focused and engaging.

So, when you next think that you need your audience to know something, ask why they need to know it. Here are two steps to take

First, check why you need to inform your audience. Could it be to gain the following from your audience?

  1. Action: Undertake a specific task or set of tasks where your audience understands why they need to be undertaken.
  2. Implement: Put something into effect where you explain what to do but the audience decides how to do it.
  3. Support: Help to someone, potentially you, in undertaking an activity without undertaking the activity themselves.
  4. Trust: To have confidence in a situation.

If none of those fit, consider whether one of these ‘knowing' definitions fits.

  1. Know: Be aware of something so your stakeholder can factor this knowledge into their thinking and action.
  2. Understand: Fully appreciate something so you can then use that understanding to decide or act.

Sometimes it is true that your audience does ‘just' need to know something. I find however that nine times out of ten, there is another real reason. When we clarify that reason, the communication becomes more useful and the audience more engaged.

I hope that helps. More next week.

Kind regards,
Davina

 

PS – In my upcoming Board Paper Bootcamp we will cover strategies for discerning your real outcome so you can then be more effective at engaging senior leaders and Boards. Learn more here.

How to cut the number of updates you deliver

How to cut the number of updates you deliver

In last week’s MasterClass I shared ideas to help you make your updates more interesting.

One idea I shared is the possibility of having greater influence by NOT updating at all.

It shocked some participant to silence!

We are so accustomed to updating our leaders and Steering Committees that we often don’t think WHY we are updating them.

If, in some situations, you sent an email update rather than taking up everyone’s time in a meeting?

I share this and more ideas about how to get the most out of your routine updates in the recording.

Access inside the Past Events area within my Clarity Hub – Register here >> 

Members can attend these sessions live, or access the recordings, as well as make use of the growing library of case studies, tools and templates and the ever-useful Pattern Picker. Learn more here >>

I hope that helps.

Davina

 

How to hit the ground running in a big new role

How to hit the ground running in a big new role

Have you ever wondered how senior people hit the ground running in a new role?

I recently spoke with Cerise Uden about her strategies for doing that on the Friday before she started a new senior program manager role.

At the simplest level, we talked about preparation.

It got really interesting when we got into the detail, though.

Cerise shared her simple yet specific approach for quickly engaging and delivering for senior decison makers. We discussed how to

  1. Work out who to really get in front of early on (and when to do it)
  2. Fill any knowledge gaps you might have, particularly if the role covers new areas such as AI
  3. Nail down precisely what you need to deliver and to whom

You’ll find the episode on your favourite player and on our website here.

I hope that helps. More next week.

Kind regards,
Davina

RELATED POSTS

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.

How to reduce rework for high-stakes communication

How to reduce rework for high-stakes communication

Over the past two weeks I have shared two ideas to help you lift the quality of your own papers and presentations.

Today I share the third. It might seem like an odd one, but bear with me. It’s about velocity.

How quickly can you develop and deliver powerful insights that lead to fast, high-quality decisions?

In reading Colin Bryar and Bill Carr’s excellent book, Working Backwards, which describes Amazon’s secret to success many insights stood out.

The principle of velocity was one of them.

Amazon has gone to great lengths to maintain velocity in all areas of its operations so it can maintain its ability to execute quickly on innovative business lines.

Great effort is taken to remove bottlenecks and keep the teams on their ‘front foot’.

Communication is one of those areas. I see an opportunity to insert structure and discipline into the communication process just as you might any other business process.

Imagine this: Could board papers receive ‘minimal adjustments’ at each layer of your organization’s approval chain? Even better when the Board approves the idea the first time it is presented.

My client from the supply chain team at a large retailer, coined a term that I’ve borrowed: they call it the Gold Standard. Here’s how it works:

Someone prepares their highly structured one-pager either alone or with colleagues, before socialising that page with stakeholders. This triggers constructive debate around the big picture ideas and how they connect with the data. By socialising a one-page ‘message map map’ rather than a polished document at least four important things happen.

  1. Everyone in the process can review the message map and respond quickly with constructive suggestions to refine the thinking. One CEO client tells me he block-reviews papers and spends an average of 15 minutes on each paper. This is a marked reduction in the time he previously spent reviewing papers for the Senior Leadership Team and the Board.
  2. Everyone feels as though they have permission to debate the ideas. When someone receives a document that someone has obviously ‘sweated over’ they feel less comfortable about having the debate. It feels like a ‘correction’ rather than a ‘conversation’.
  3. The team isn’t wedded to unhelpful concepts and charts that ‘must’ remain in the document. As soon as we create a chart or write a section, we become wedded to it rather than the ideas it represents. We spend time trying to ‘fit it in’ rather than stepping back and looking at the overall message we need to convey.
  4. Less time is spent preparing prose and charts that turn out to be off point. Rather than focusing our energies on preparing polished drafts, we can focus on the messaging.

Once the ideas are locked in, the paper is prepared and sent up the chain for, hopefully, only minor adjustment.

In this model, teams focus on finessing ideas rather than tweaking words, fiddling with PowerPoint connectors or following a format.

This liberates you and your team from the awful game of ‘red pen ping pong’ so you can focus on higher order activities.

Our clients frequently see a 30 percent lift in velocity when drafting papers and presentations. This impacts both team members and leaders. Some teams, such as those outlined in the next section, achieve materially more than that.

Before establishing some concrete goals for you and your team let’s be inspired by what is possible.

Ask yourself: What do you need to change to get to the Gold Standard for you and your team?

I hope that helps.
Davina

PS. You can find the first two parts of this series on Communication Quality here:

  1. The most important measure of communication quality
  2. Is your communication insightful?

RELATED POSTS

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.

Going from good to great

Going from good to great

Jim Collins coined the term ‘from good to great’ with his seminal book of the same title, which I am sure you are familiar with.

This is a challenge many of my mid to senior leaders wrestle with as we lift the quality of thinking in their major communication.

Here are some thoughts that emerged from this morning’s coaching session that might help you too.

Focusing on the gaps in the story particularly where the value is not well-synthesised is a quick way to shift from good to great. Here are three gaps we identified in our example:

Good is readable, but typically summarises more than synthesises. Synthesis is where the gold lies. This is where we go from saying ‘this is what the data says’ to saying ‘this is what the data means’ in this context to this audience.

This is good news, as the AI tools can (so far at least) only summarise. They can’t put the data into context. More on that another time.

Good has a small number of top-line points. This means the story isn’t an Agatha Christie hunt for the information. It’s laid out so you can find it fairly easily.

Good leaves value on the table. The story we reworked today missed several key ingredients, but most importantly it didn’t surface the reasoning. It didn’t explain why the recommendation was the right one to implement.

Keep your eyes peeled for the ‘why’ in your communication. It is often lacking in examples that cross my desk.

I hope that helps. More soon.

Davina

PS – Do you write papers for senior leaders and Boards? If so, I’d love to hear about your key challenges. Click here to share them.



RELATED POSTS

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.

Making time for strategy

Making time for strategy

Do you struggle to make time for strategic thinking?

Most of my clients tell me they do, and I also find it a challenge. It is so easy to be swept away by the ‘now', the urgent requests for things to be delivered.

The busyness can feel satisfying as we tick things off lists. However, it leaves us open to the risk of delivering more ‘stuff' and less ‘impact'.

In a communication sense, it leaves people reworking papers late at night because they haven't allowed time to think during the day. This is particularly so for those who lead teams and realise late in the piece that their team's papers need an overhaul before being fit for purpose.

My collaborator, Richard Medcalf of XQuadrant, has helped me enormously in this regard and I am excited to tell you about his upcoming book.

Making Time for Strategy offers deceptively simple yet ‘real world' achievable techniques that have shifted my perspective, my behaviour and my results.

In this latest episode of my new Cutting Through podcast I share my first of six interviews with Richard that share some of the insights from his book.

You can listen on your favourite podcasting platform, or on my website >>

I hope that helps. More next week.

Kind regards,
Davina

Registrations Open:

Thinking Skills Workshop

December 14th

Learn how to connect the dots between complex ideas so you can prepare insightful and engaging communication.

In this 2-hour workshop I introduce the core thinking skills that underpin our ability to deliver insight rather than just ‘information'. During this interactive workshop you will

  • Learn the basis for structuring a compelling business story
  • Practice three core thinking skills that will set your communication apart from others
  • Leverage our seven most-commonly used story structuring patterns
  • Work in a small group to rework a short prose communication

Only 20 places are offered to allow me to answer everyone's questions.

RELATED POSTS

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.

Optimising your ‘end of year review’ for maximum impact

Optimising your ‘end of year review’ for maximum impact

Late November is the time when many of us are reflecting on our progress for the year and updating our stakeholders.

This can be fraught, particularly in an increasingly cost-constrained environment. Many recent working session stories have had a cost theme, as have many of the stories I have been working on with my corporate clients.

In that light I wanted to share one critical idea to focus on when preparing your next progress report.

Prioritising impact over activity is ever more important in these increasingly cost-constrained times. Let me explain what I mean.

Saying ‘we have been busy' is rarely enough. Providing a list of things you and your team have completed over the past period is the easy way out and only marginally useful. Even when the list is well-grouped, it is rarely insightful. It can also be overwhelming and just says ‘we have been busy'.

I once worked with the head of projects at a global car company and she asked me why her CFO never responded to the weekly update email he requested.

When I reviewed it I could see why.

She had listed literally 100 project tasks that had been worked on, categorised by area, without offering any insight as to how these linked to the overall objectives.

Saying ‘we are on track' is better. This at least offers stakeholders comfort to know that they have nothing to worry about. This can be sufficient, but is not always so, especially in times of heightened attention to costs.

Saying ‘we have delivered X impact' is better still. You might describe each activity you have completed alongside the impact it has delivered. It doesn't require a major shift in substance, still enables you to describe the work accomplished but is clear about the impact delivered.

Explaining how your team could deliver more impact is best. This requires you to take a step back and look for opportunities to optimise your ways of working within your area as well stepping outside that area to focus on your purpose.

If you reflect on the reason why your program of work exists and ask whether your priorities and activities are still the best way to achieve that goal, you may find some gems.

Even though this can be difficult and perhaps feel risky, it demonstrates that your commitment is in line with delivering maximum returns rather than just ‘doing work'.

I hope that helps. More next week.

Kind regards,
Davina

Registrations Open:

Thinking Skills Workshop

December 15th

Learn how to connect the dots between complex ideas so you can prepare insightful and engaging communication.

In this 2-hour workshop I introduce the core thinking skills that underpin our ability to deliver insight rather than just ‘information'. During this interactive workshop you will

  • Learn the basis for structuring a compelling business story
  • Practice three core thinking skills that will set your communication apart from others
  • Leverage our seven most-commonly used story structuring patterns
  • Work in a small group to rework a short prose communication

Only 20 places are offered to allow me to answer everyone's questions.

RELATED POSTS

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.

When to not focus on the data

When to not focus on the data

I was sharing war stories with one of my collaborators this week. An interesting story emerged where ‘poor communication' cost a chief financial officer (CFO) his job.

Why?

Because he focused on the data.

Let me explain.

The CFO assumed his role was to provide regular and accurate numbers that the CEO and Board would not just read, but also interpret.

However, the CEO and the Board wanted insights about the company's performance.

This material disconnect cost him his job as the leadership did not see that the company was in major difficulty until late in the piece.

So, what went wrong here?

While I agree that a CFO has a responsibility to explain what the performance data means, I also see a systemic issue that goes beyond the CFO himself. This could have been avoided if

  •  The CEO and Board asked better questions inside and outside formal Board meetings
  • The company secretary clarified expectations that insights were central to the financial reports when the CFO took the role on years previously
  • The CEO and the Chair called out the lack of insight in the papers as a general expectation
  • The Board did not accept that poor quality papers are commonplace and too hard to fix

I offer this as a cautionary tale.

Quality governance and decision making requires insightful communication both inside and around key papers.

Assuming that the data is enough, or that poor quality papers is ‘par for the course' is not just a risk for you but also for the organisation.

I hope that helps. More next week.

Kind regards,
Davina

 

Cutting Through Podcast Now Live

Last week I launched my new podcast, Cutting Through.

My first two posts, a short intro and an interview discussing how to get around one of the biggest challenges when communicating about risk management.

My guest, Anthony Wilson from ABM Risk Management shares deep wisdom stemming from decades in risk and assurance.

He also offers his comprehensive risk management framework.

Listen on your favourite podcasting app or here on my website.

PS – Apologies to those of you who may tried to find it on Spotify, Apple and Google Play last weekend. The episode took longer to publish than we expected.

 

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.

Why thinking and writing don’t mix

Why thinking and writing don’t mix

I was reminded this week of why thinking and writing don't mix if you want to deliver impact at work.

It's great if you want to keep a journal, write a novel or perhaps some poetry.

But, bear with me.

I do believe writing helps us clarify our thinking.

But I also think writing to think inside a doc or a deck makes for poor business communication.

Communication quality is further reduced by socializing your document with others.


Let me offer three reasons why I believe ‘thinking' into a document leads to cluttered communication that takes far too long to deliver value.

Clarity of messaging is compromised as we seek useful input from others. In today's busy world, messaging must jump off the page the minute someone opens an email, paper or PowerPoint.

Asking stakeholders to review lengthy docs or decks leads to a mess of track changes that focus on the minutiae rather than the substance.

Quality of insight is hard to coalesce into a cohesive argument. If you draft your ideas inside an email, a doc or a deck you will naturally wander all over the place. Your thinking will evolve some here, some there as ideas form. The structure of your story and the quality of your messaging will wander likewise.

Velocity is nearly impossible. By velocity I mean the speed with which you can create your communication, with which your audience can digest it and then make a decision. When my clients skip using a one-page storyline they frequently see at least three problems. They see extensive rework, delayed decisions and lots of last minute scrambling to ‘fix' their docs and decks.

As one CEO said to me recently:

“We chose to introduce your storylining method as it offered a system we could replicate across the business.”
“Iterating 16 times around a Board paper just doesn't make business sense.”
Now I receive a stack of one-pagers and spend 15 minutes reviewing each one before offering substantive feedback to the team.”
“The team then uses this to finesse their messaging before they quickly prepare their documents.”
“Our Board and SLT papers have improved out of sight”.



I hope that helps.

Warmly,
Davina

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.

How to avoid delivering highly detailed but meaningless communication

How to avoid delivering highly detailed but meaningless communication

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
    • Past
    • Present
    • Future

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.

Kind regards,
Davina

Course: Clarity in Problem Solving

Do you ever realise part way through a project that you are not sure you are solving the right problem … or even that you are solving the wrong problem?

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.

Learn more here.

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.

INTERVIEW – Building A Winning Career

INTERVIEW – Building A Winning Career

Well, Bill certainly did not disappoint in this morning's interview!

Bill shared career insights that are hugely relevant to all of us, no matter where we are in our careers.

He gave me a new idea for addressing current challenge and judging by the chat messaging others found the same.

I encourage you to take the time to watch the recording below and to consider working with him further. There are three ways to do this:

#1 – Grab a copy of his new book Building a Winning Career, which launched today. He is offering the Kindle version for about $10 for the coming two weeks to make it affordable to everyone, as well as physical copies which Australians can order directly from him, or those overseas can access via online book stores.

#2 – Learn more from him in our two coming Clarity First sessions. The first will be a book discussion and the second a working session to help those present. Clarity First registration is open until 9 December to allow you to join early for the February program.

#3 – Receive a free copy of Bill's book if you are one of the first 10 people to join Clarity First this week.

>> Register here

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.