Did you really say the message you wanted to?

Every day we must communicate to other people and send them many types of messages. Either it is a customer, a work mate, or even at our personal relationships. The subjects will be many: negotiate, deliver something, ask for something, or even to give bad news.

Did the person on the other side really understand?

Frequently I see situations where people from the team will say that they have already warned and notified the customer consistently, of important news, as instance. When it is really relevant, my head always brings to me the same question: “did the person on the other side really understand and received the communication the correct way?”.

For most of the situations (I hope so), it will be an easy “yes”, but for the times when I hear that the communication wasn’t well understood, I like to think on three different perspectives:

  1. Did the person on the other side just don’t get the message?
  2. Did the person on the other side don’t want to get the message?
  3. The person who was giving the message. Did he communicate the proper way?

One scenario

Recently I’ve been involved in a scenario where, after finishing all the resources that could solve one big problem, a very hard news, very critical to the business, should be given to a customer. I kept distance from the first communication iteration, and just supported the team on how to understand the whole scenario, and let them think about actually giving the news. For my surprise, I heard NO bad ECHO comming back from the customer about that subject.

Here is our case! Few days later I started thinking that the customer didn’t actually understand the news. If he had, we would have a crisis on the relationship for sure.

Then we stablished a new plan, to make the communication again. The message was very well supported, we spoke to everybody who could be affected by the communication, checked all the people that could help, and even tried to put ourselves on the customer’s perspective. With that we’d understand better how that would affect the business and how we’d feel if it was our bag of coins.

A new communication was done, in proper commercial time, in a loud and clear way, counting with the main customer’s sponsor. This communication was also formalized.

That time, yes, we heard the ECHO.

So, what we can take of it?

Getting back to the first three questions of this article, the conclusion is that we hadn’t passed the first message in a proper way.

How can we be sure that the message was passed in the right and straight way? It will depend on each scenario. But I’m leaving a few tips that I believe can be useful for many of them:

  1. Make sure you are very well contextualized, and all of the rest of important people, with all the relevant history of that news:
  • What are we talking about? — What’s the problem?
  • What happened? — What is it about? Who’s involved?
  • What was the happenings that made us reach this point? Create a timeline!
  • What’s the problem? Where is it? IMPORTANT! Have it very clear.
  • Who failed? — The objective is not to point fingers. You must understand how does that affect your team and organization, in order to improve and avoid that to happen again.

2. Understand the problem’s impact:

  • Who will be affected?
  • Is there a prejudice to the business? Will someone loose money, or make less money because of it?
  • Who had the responsibility of avoiding the problem to happen? You? Your team? Your company? Someone that you can’t manage?

3. Action plan — the problem already exists and there’s no way back, right? Let’s move ahead! What will we do now?

  • If the problem is really big, MAYBE creating a suggestion of action plan can soften the bad news.
  • Make it very clear to the other side, that you and your organization are well commited and want to help to minimize the issue. Use this words! “We are well commited and want to minimize the impacts”.

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Guilherme Sesterheim

Guilherme Sesterheim

Sharing experiences on IT subjects. Working for AWS. DevOps, Kubernetes, Microservices, Terraform, Ansible, and Java