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This is what it looks like when two engineers “interface”.

Someone asked me this week; “How do you know how much detail to give? I want to communicate, yet I find if I give ALL the details I know people stop listening or miss something.”

This got me thinking…

More times than not, when people want to share what they know, they give it ALL. I have been in meetings where people stop listening, start fidgeting, and thus miss the most important things being shared. Here are some tips that I have learned (and continue to re-learn).

  1. Order is important. You cannot just do a mind dump. People listen best when there is a story – a beginning/middle/end. The more organized your story, the better the detail will be received.
  2. Understand the expertise of your audience. Are they technical, financial, broad-focused, narrow-focused. Speak in terms that they will grasp what you believe is important for them to know.
  3. Know why you are telling them something. If you can think of no reason to tell them, don’t tell them. Stuff that they have no reason to know just clouds their ability to absorb what they do need to know.
  4. If a decision is needed, share everything that will make it the best decision possible. Understand what must be weighed in the decision and provide the detail you know about.
  5. Never assume your assumptions are another’s assumptions. Start with your assumptions – it could drive different details needed.
  6. Don’t combine information. If you have details to share on two different topics to the same person – provide two different reports/emails/etc. Lumping everything together just confuses things.
  7. Seek feedback. Ask the person you are providing the details if the format, wording, level-of, timeliness, or amount is sufficient for their needs.
  8. Be an open book – reinforce with people that if they need information they are not getting to please ask and you would be happy to provide.
  9. More is not better. Too much makes it very difficult for someone to dig through and find what they need. Like excess inventory, too many details is waste.
  10. Learn from your past. Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. Continuous Improvement works here as well as on the shop floor.

Have you found any of these to work for you? I would be very interested in hearing about how you manage the details while communicating.

kind regards,