“Assuming makes an ass out of you and me.”
I make it a point to focus on clarity with my team. This plays off the old saying that “assuming makes an ass out of you and me.” I may have an idea for a project, or a specific deliverable that I need someone on my team to take care of. If you want something done right, you need to be explicitly clear with exactly what you need, the format you need it in and the deadline. I use bulleted lists, bold things and use key words like “action items” and “deliverables.”
If I am on a team and get these kinds of instructions from the project manager, there is no excuse to get it wrong, because it is so drop dead obvious, and everyone knows it.
It’s really easy to be clear. Use the following guidelines when outlining instructions:
1. No big words.
Use simple language that is easy to read and digest.
2. Don’t write long paragraphs.
Bulleted lists are your best friend.
3. Bold what is important.
People’s eyes will go right to it.
4. Format documents.
Use tables, use visuals. My professor and serial entrepreneur, Bruce Russell, explained it best that the important stuff should jump right off the page.
5. Be careful with acronyms.
I only use acronyms when my team either knows them, or I want my team to learn them by searching on Google.
6. No extra information.
Tell people what they need to know. Nothing less, nothing more.
What are the advantages of clarity?
- Less mistakes
- Less frustration
- Faster delivery times
- Things get done right the first time
- Happier team
So, next time you are writing a Goliath email that seems more like a Harry Potter novel, take a step back and ensure that things are concise and the important information is abundantly clear.