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Context, Clarity and the Necessary Devices

In business as in life, we strive to be understood. Clarity, however, is an elusive target. The complexity of our language seemingly conspires against the universal desire to be understood. Homonyms… Synonyms… arcane grammatical rules…. I just want to be understood.


Case in point -- consider the following sentence; “We will capture market share by focusing on our consumers’ preferences, assembly-required design, and flat-packed shipping.” Here the author attributes the capture of market share to 3 things – consumer preferences, assembly-required design and flat-packed shipping.


If we omit a single comma, however, the message is radically changed. “We will capture market share by focusing on consumers’ preferences, assembly-required design and flat-packed shipping.” The absence of that single comma now suggests that market share will be captured by focusing on assembly-required design and flat-packed shipping, both of which exist as preferences of the consumers.


Can you imagine being responsible for Marketing in the second example? Having built a few pieces of furniture myself, I imagine it would be a very small target market which prefers flat-packed, assembly-required goods.


The author’s clarity and the reader’s understanding are rulebound and extremely delicate. Everything hangs in the balance of a simple punctuation mark and its interpretation. Clarity and understanding hinges on a common understanding of grammatical convention. Admittedly, this is a bit extreme, but yikes.


Consider now your business.


There are so many moving pieces… strategy… market place… customers and customer segments… products… budgets… sales goals… revenue targets… change initiatives… projects and project teams… customer-facing professionals across the entire organization… Your goal is to broker clarity and understanding, driving the organization forward.

There are but a few simple questions that provide the foundation for this shared vision. Where are we? Where are we going? How are we going to get there? Why do we expect this to help us to win? Who is impacted? What behavior changes are expected? How are we going to measure? What’s in it for me?


Presuming that good answers exist for each of these questions (a topic worthy of many posts), all that stands in the way of a true collective understanding and meaningful change is the fragility of the English language. If a single comma changes the interpretation of an entire sentence, how then are you to best create a common vision and collective understanding in order to drive your organization forward? Moreover, once conveyed, how do you equip your teams to localize the vision, making it real for them?


Your success is dependent upon their ability to retell the story (accurately), interpret what it means and what it means to them, and then broker the necessary changes in order to make the vision possible. Given this fragility, there is no wonder as to why transformation fails at such an astounding rate. Even if the thinking is 100% correct (a huge presumption), the ability to drive meaningful change hangs in the balance of creating a truly shared understanding.


Good luck.


We believe there is a better way.


We find that success is a function of augmenting words with Organizationally-understood concepts. We do this by creating a reference model to first represent your business, and then subsequently to embody your vision. Doing so demystifies the voyage for your team, supplying essential context. Effectively, It’s the difference between navigating by a set of recited directions and navigating via a map. Either can work, but one has a significantly higher chance for success (and course correction along the way). The greater the distance to travel, the more this is true.


We have found that creating and using reference models in this way not only improves the collective understanding to the questions of what, where, when, why, how and who, but it also vastly improves your teams’ abilities to contribute to the success of the vision. Moreover, these reference models yield a superior foundation for the Organizational Change Management which will be required to truly transform. Even better, it provides a framework for identifying your KPIs – giving you the ability to monitor, assess, and incrementally measure change.


Is it easy? No, but worthwhile change rarely is. Is it worthwhile? It’s worthwhile only if you are intent on accelerating successful organizational change, moving your organization forward faster and more predictably.


Better understanding. Better solutions. Faster change. Improved measures.



We can help.

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