Good writing is about clear thinking. Clear thinking is hard work. Most people in business don’t have the time, incentive, or interest to put in the work. Often in business situations, certain “blocks” inhibit the ability for stakeholders and decision-makers to think clearly. Blocks that prevent clear thinking:
- Misaligned expectations that stem from outdated goals
- Lack of consensus on objectives
- Personal and organizational silos
- Closed perspectives and lack of feedback
- Focusing on short-term results instead of long-term strategies
These blocks lead to big, problematic “gaps” in communication about:
- Delivery platforms: Print versus online
- Processes: Poorly explained processes or concepts
- Audiences: Making faulty assumptions; not really knowing the audience
The results of not thinking clearly are muddled instructions, incomplete procedures, and ambiguous policies. This creates confused employees and dissatisfied customers.
At our company, Tanner Corporate Services, we recognize blocks and gaps. We offer to help clients think clearly and give them solutions to meet their business objectives. As outsourced communications consultants, our job is to reduce employee confusion and customer dissatisfaction. We identify the blocks and then rely on RoboHelp to assist us in filling gaps.
We see an opportunity to fill a gap when we hear comments like these: “My way is the only way.” “We can’t do that.” “But this works for me!” “Editors take critical things out.” Here are some example situations where we address the comment to loosen the block then demonstrate RH alternatives to build consensus and fill gaps.
Example Situation: “My way is the only way.”
Block: Manager unfamiliar with online advantages insists on printed manuals.
Gap: Delivery Platform
Find common ground first. Acknowledge the emotions that are evident and create dialog. One technique we use is to show samples that reflect the different opinions expressed. RH assists through its flexibility, multiple built-in skins, and customizable navigation. With a small investment, we generate alternatives that open discussion and create dialog.
Once we establish opportunities for dialog, we separate function and design decisions. Rather than focus on how the page looks online, we focus on what it does. We show an easily adaptable TOC, drop-down text, and interactive buttons. Generally, we suggest online features that end up becoming requirements.
Example Situation: “We can’t do that.”
Block: Team members disagree about the required level of detail.
A common issue is disagreement about level of detail to provide for processes. An RH solution offers many alternatives for handling layers of detail that are not possible in print or with a Word or PDF file. With iterative samples, we move from “what is” to “what could be.” Team members see that formatting for the printed page looks different and often doesn’t work online. Through demonstration of functions that aren’t available in a printed document, like linking or revealing hidden text, team members experience enhanced usability. When someone offers an idea that won’t work online, we illustrate it so they see the shortcomings.
Finally, whenever possible, we demonstrate how RH can address an issue in a way they have never thought of. You can evaluate functions like content categories, revealed/hidden text, and Dynamic User-Centric Content (DUCC). They all offer advanced user interfaces.
Example Situation: “But this works for me!”
Block: SME familiar with procedure leaves out critical detail.
One of the most common situations we encounter occurs when a very knowledgeable SME assumes the employee or customer knows more than he does. Our rule of thumb in this situation is to encourage joint ownership of the content, often through feedback from actual audience members.
RH allows for customization in a wide variety of ways including adding user defined interface buttons (think feedback button), embedding Google analytics, and linking to web-based surveys or email.
Tips for Promoting Clear Thinking
Every situation is different. As communicators, we stay alert to signs of blocked thinking. We have the skills to understand the blocks and to offer options to promote clear thinking and better communication. Tips to help stakeholders think clearly:
- Lead and support your stakeholders; they are on an emotional journey.
- Establish a dialog among stakeholders: managers, SMEs, and users.
- Be iterative; demonstrate progressive options.
- Introduce user perspective as early as possible, and revisit it often.
- Always ask questions, but don’t be trapped by the answers.
- Allow RoboHelp features and flexibility to assist you.