A Common Language

Michelle just blogged about how important communication is.  Here’s another aspect to consider when you’re communicating — do you speak a common language within your community.  It will take a common language to ensure that everybody is in alignment on what is trying to be achieved, and on what the end state looks like.

If the objective of the change is to implement a new business process, and the new process is being described as “efficient”, what does that really mean?  When it comes to defining a quality — which can often be considered to be nebulous — if you’re going to say you’ve achieved success you have to state that quality in measurable terms.  So, define your terms as unambiguously as possible!  If “efficient” means that you can produce ‘x’ units of product in an hour with ‘y’ degree of product quality, then use that level of detail when you define the term “efficient”.

There are also terms that will be hard to define by language only.  This is where having a good example and some sort of visual depiction of what you mean will be essential.

Let’s go back to the term of an “efficient” business process.  You’ve been able to state with words the definition of “efficient” — produce ‘x’ units in an hour with ‘y’ degree of product quality — but that can still leave people wondering how they’re going to achieve that.  This is where a picture can help to drive common understanding and provide a common language.  One advantage to a picture is that everybody can point to a spot on the diagram and say “tell me more about this”, and you’re all in the same place.

There are several different notations that can be used to draw a picture of a business process — flowchart diagramming, swimlane diagramming, Business Process Modeling Notation (BPMN), Lean Six Sigma Process Maps, etc.  It doesn’t matter which one you use as long as it can speak a language that everybody can understand.


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