I have spent 36 years in a professional environment supporting administrative, human resources and logistics operations, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).
Whether it’s a mission for: search and rescue, peacekeeping, war, an exercise or a board of inquiry, communication is the essence of the mission. The effectiveness of an organization and its documentation cannot be separated! It is very important to communicate well to achieve your goals and focus.
That’s why some organizations are creating communication standards to better understand each other quickly and save time. The NATO Phonetic Alphabet is an example. Organizations create lexicons for writers to ensure they use the right words with the right meaning. There are also ISO standards and many other standards. These standards exist to accelerate the transmission and understanding of information. The goal is to safely reach the target, to achieve the mission in the fewest possible attempts and using the least possible resources.
During my career, I have experienced situations where:
- I quickly realized that these standards were not enough;
- you had to succeed the first time.
There was a lot of room for improvement. Over my years with the CAF, I became interested in the effectiveness of communication. My staff and I were overwhelmed with emails, phone calls and visits from military members to our offices. We were wasting a lot of time providing additional clarification because the documentation was not understood.
Following a telephone conversation with Dr. Brenda Milner, renowned McGill University Neurologist, I met one of her students, Dr. Gabriel Leonard who shared with me 4 books. Reading them in detail began my research path and my practical testing that led me to develop an efficient communication model that saves time, eliminates misunderstanding and improves processes.
At the time, I was posted as the Wing HR Logistic Officer to 3 Wing Bagotville, Quebec. I started to put into practice my effective communication model and as a result, our section earned a commendation for our outstanding achievement in preparing troops and family services for the Persian Gulf War.
In 1998, having tested, refined and perfected my model, I created the POPSCOMmethodology – Presentation Organization Performance Structure of COMmunications.
Transferred next to the Defense Headquarters in Ottawa, I earned a 2nd commendation for significantly improving the effectiveness and credibility of the adjudicative process for the careers of injured members.
In 2000, I earned a 3rd commendation after creating a key national capability to provide timely reports on the situation and activities of the CAF as part of the arrival of the year 2000, Op Abacus.
In 2013, I left the CAF after serving 36 years from the position of officer in charge of training for the Joint Personnel Support Unit (JPSU).
Over the past 20 years, I have used the POPSCOM methodology in reviewing many documents for various organizations. In a policy writing project, using the POPSCOM methodology, we reduced the:
- volume of these by 43%;
- number of drafts of 50%.
Imagine all the time that has been saved in user consultation. This is the experience, knowledge and results that can be transferred to your organization.
In my experience, the decision makers who invest in the quality of their content do it to streamline communication, making it more direct and more effective, ultimately saving time for users. The idea of what unclear communication costs – both in time and in people’s perception – rings true for a lot of people.
I recently delivered three mandates for Skills Compétences Canada. Here is an excerpt of the Buyer Persona Interview conducted by an independent organization with the CEO, Mr. Shaun Thorson.
Skills Compétences Canada’s vision is to “encourage and support a coordinated Canadian approach to promoting skilled trades and technologies to youth”. Part of its work include hosting competitions in skilled trades as a way to promote and raise greater awareness of these trades.
“Part of the process for hosting an event involved a detailed application process. It was time consuming on both sides and inefficient as there was a great deal of back and forth with questions and clarification of the process.”
“The new application process (by POPSCOM) has been much more focused on the process of decision making so the work required is relevant. When we really look at the time it should take to deliver a message, and what it costs in productivity over a week, a month, or a year when the initial message is unclear, it is staggering. To understand then that this can all be rectified with a simple tool (Popscom Methodology) caught everyone’s attention.”
“Prior to this we were only able to select hosts for 1 year out and it took a lot of time for my staff to identify jurisdictions and get them interested in taking part. Now we have venues selected 4 years out. Instead of seeking candidates out, they are coming to us. The extra time allows us to be more strategic and more engaged with our partners.”
The following results are achievable with only 1 day or 2-day training.
- eliminate misunderstandings of your text;
- reduce human errors;
- shorten your business processes;
- accelerate the productivity and profitability of your organization;
- increase your profit margin.
- provide skills to unblock employees’ learning deficiencies;
- prompt the recipients to take the right action;
- develop a climate of trust for employees because they are more successful;
- motivate your employees to stay with the organization;
Why is it so important to invest in the effectiveness of your content?
In his book ‘Language and Economy’, the German sociolinguist Florian Coulmas discusses “the many ways in which language and economy interact.” Here are 3 ways applicable to this article:
- how linguistic conditions facilitate or obstruct the economic process;
- language is the medium of business, an asset in itself and sometimes a barrier; and
- the spread of languages depends in an essential way on economic conditions.
In today’s economy I extrapolated his ways using the content industry:
- how content facilitates or obstructs the learning process and the economic growth;
- content is the medium of business, it accelerates or slows down your business processes; and
- the spread of knowledge depends in an essential way on the capacity for readers (employees, stakeholders, suppliers) to find, comprehend, learn and act upon the written content.
Organizations and businesses need communication competence. How is their content and their employees adapting to the demands of the economy?
The way we live and work has changed profoundly – and has the set of skills we need to participate fully in and benefit from our hyper-connected societies and increasingly knowledge-based economies. (Extract from the Secretary-General OECD Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development OECD (2013), OECD Skills Outlook 2013: First Results from the Survey of Adult Skills, OECD Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264204256-en
The Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALL) is a large-scale joint study conducted in 2003, 2006 and 2008 by governments, national statistical agencies, research institutions and multilateral organizations.
Several countries that participated in the ALL survey and were part of the skills study noted above saw their literacy and numeracy rates decline in recent years. Canada’s rates lost 7 points.
% of the Canadian population score below the desired level
|from 42% to 49 %||literacy|
|from 48% to 55%||numeracy|
What are the consequences?
Skills for life? The main results of the OECD Adult Skills Assessment, October 2013:
A high proportion of adults with low literacy and numeracy skills can hinder the implementation and dissemination of new organizational practices and technologies that increase productivity.
Another report released in 2007 by the TD Bank estimated that 1% increase in the literacy rate would raise the national product by $32 billion. It must be concluded that low levels of literacy are expensive. Reference: Let’s Not Forget Literacy – Call to Action, TD Bank Financial Group, (2007)
Another factor is the shortage of manpower. The 2013 Skills Study shows that the skill mismatch in Canada is 42% (overqualified 27% and underqualified 15%). For many workers, their level of literacy and numeracy prevents them from being trained to respond to the demands of the economy.
Transition from the knowledge economy to the learning economy
We are in transition from the knowledge economy, to the learning economy. The need to invest in effective content writing skills is urgent. It is an inexpensive solution that pays dividends immediately. The methodology focuses on best practices for presenting information. With the help of presentation tools and text organization, it allows rapid drafting of content to ensure greater understanding. The methodology will very easily identify gaps in the documents. These more effectively written documents also reduce the gap for employees who have difficulty reading and counting.
POPSCOM offers a detailed assessment of the quality and efficiency of your documents through its lens. This includes:
- an analysis of 50 criteria focused on the strengths and weaknesses of your documents;
- our recommendations on the performance gains you will make by implementing our changes;
- the sample result “before” and “after” of our intervention.
Few organizations assess the effectiveness of their written content. Yet this is a great way to quickly identify, at low cost, where and how your business can:
- reduce human error;
- improve the performance of your employees;
- make your texts motivating;
- maximize the performance of your electronic solutions.
With our detailed diagnosis, you will:
- know where to focus your efforts;
- reduce additional requests for clarification;
- project an image of effectiveness.
The diagnoses reveal an average rate of document efficiency of 60%. I ask my clients: “Does this mean that every time someone in your organization writes or reads a document, you lose 40% of your resources? Imagine if you are 40% more efficient than your competitors? How much profit will you make? POPSCOM can help you reach 100% efficiency with a 1 day or 2-day training. It all depends on the impact level of your documents.
People complain that they are overwhelmed with emails and phone calls. These overflows are often caused because the recipients do not understand well and they need additional clarification. This delays the timeline of your projects or you have to pay overtime to meet them. An employee who does not understand, is going to ask a colleague or his supervisor for help. Worse, he will not ask for help and will interpret the information in his own way. These requests slow down your business processes and productivity. The consequences: your costs increase.
Many organizations invest a lot of money in information technology solutions but when your documents appear on the screen, they are not more readable. Even organizations that have certification do not necessarily have effective documents. Yes, they have procedures, processes and checklist in place. But are they easy to read and understood by everyone at first sight?
Are they always on target?
Good writing…is clear thinking made visible
Ambrose Bierce 1842 – 1914 American Journalist and Writer