I work with lots of groups, usually from large organisations, who want to improve the clarity and impact of their communication. This week, I worked with an IT team from an energy company and they – like most clients – laughed with embarrassment when I showed them my diagram describing what I call The Chain of Pain.
I began by asking them if they had a name for the process they used to socialise the ideas in a piece of communication and they laughed and said they did: chaos. Does that sound familiar? Is this how it works in your organisation?
Someone asks for a paper to be written: either an ad-hoc one on a particular topic or a routine monthly or quarterly report. The draft is then circulated via one of many possible collaboration tools, most likely email and the relevant stakeholders add words or paragraphs here and there and remove others.
The document does a number of rounds and the end product is a mish-mash of lots of people’s views that dilutes the intended message so that there is hardly any message at all, just a lot of ‘stuff’.
This process is time consuming and frustrating for all involved and often leads to the audience – a leadership team, steering committee or technical forum – coming back with more questions than decisions so that the process can repeat several times before an outcome is reached.