4.1. Make Sure that the Message Received is the Message Sent

Diagram 4.1: TINA’s Implementing sector

In the previous chapter, we looked at TINA’s Thinking sector; gathering information concerning your business, using that information to make informed decisions, and producing well thought out plans.  Making informed decisions (thinking) is the best way to avoid business failure, whether those decisions concern your customers, your people, your suppliers, your finances or your processes. If your decisions are not based on information, then you are guessing, and there are plenty of businesses in the failure abyss to demonstrate where “guessing” will get you.


In this chapter, we’re going to look at TINA’s Implementing sector. Communicating the right parts of your plan to the right people, so that the right things occur in the right order. Fairly straightforward, really. Getting the things that you have planned to do done moves you steadily forwards towards business survival and step—by—step closer to success. How do you take all of that thinking and planning that you‘ve been doing and turn it into achievements? You communicate to your team and point them in the right direction.


Implementing is a process that uses your plan to determine what it is that you and your team need to be doing in your business to make it survive and succeed. If you implement your plan correctly, then the result is that you achieve things. Bear in mind that your plan can cover anything from the ‘Big Plan’ for your business, through to your plan covering what has to be done today. The particular size and depth of the plan isn’t what’s important. What’s important is getting whatever plan you have produced implemented, otherwise it’s just a set of ideas in your head. So, let’s see how to manage the implementation of your plan.


A conductor cannot play all the instruments at once, that’s why they need an orchestra. Without the highly—skilled musicians, the conductor is merely someone standing up and waving their arms around. For your business to survive, you need your team to be working together to make ‘beautiful music’, with you conducting for all you’re worth. Now, a conductor uses a baton to communicate with the orchestra; a manager requires other tools.


Much of our time in business is taken up with the receipt and transmission of communications: orders, instructions, requests, information transfers, etc. The ‘who, what, why, where, when and how’ associated with that communication is vital to ensuring that the message received was the same as the one sent. The control of the business is critically dependent on this. Poor control of communication results in poor control of your business.


In the previous chapter, we covered communicating information concerning your goods and services to your customers using the Market—Message—Media process.  Now, try this: the people who you manage are ‘customers’ of your management style. Okay, unlike your real customers, your people don’t pay for your management (well, other than psychologically, perhaps!), but otherwise they take delivery of your management style without payment and possibly without wanting what you are ‘selling’. Why is this important? Well, your people keep your promises to your customers. If you tell your customers that you’ll get their package to its destination by 0700 hrs the following day, you’d better make sure that you’ve got people and systems that can do it, unless you intend to drive the truck yourself.

How do you know where you’re going if you don’t have a plan?

Thinking about your people as customers for your management style gives a whole new perspective to ‘management’ and is important when we look at how you communicate with those people. We have seen that the management steering wheel is composed of four sectors covering four broad activities: Thinking, Implementing, Numbering and Analysing, from which we derive the acronym TINA. In this chapter, we’re going to cover how you implement your plan, but that requires communication of that plan to your people and exactly how that is done requires you to think.


How are you going to get your plan implemented? Obvious; tell your people about it. And this is where you must think of your people as your customers. In Chapter 3: Planning Properly, we looked at the Market—Message—Media process used for communicating with your customers. Now, let’s apply that process to communicating with your people.


The ‘goods and services’ that you are selling to your people, that you want them to buy (into), are your plans. You’ve worked hard to get hold of the necessary information to make those all—important informed decisions and what you’ve got is, to you at least, a great plan. Now, if no—one else thinks it’s great, it’s doomed to failure, so you must look at how best to sell the plan to your people. No—one in your business will care about it as much as you do, so you have to find a way to make your people as enthusiastic about your plan as you are. Why is their enthusiasm important? Well, apart from the fact that your people are the ones who keep your promises to your customers, an enthusiastic person does a better job, generally speaking, than one who doesn’t care.


So, you’ve got your plan, and you now need to decide who makes up the Market for that plan. The obvious answer is ‘your people’, but stop and have a think. Is your market one homogenous entity, in other words, are all the people in your team the same? Do they behave the same way? Do they do the same jobs? Have they got the same responsibilities and authorities? Unless you are a team of one, the answer will be no.


How do you get the right parts of your plan to the right people, the people who will be implementing it? Well, the answer is to break the plan down into bite—sized parts that can be swallowed by the different parts of your business. This is not as difficult as it sounds. As an example, let’s imagine that you’ve produced a plan concerning a major business decision: producing a new product for a new market. It’s difficult to get much more ‘major’ than that in business! Your plan consists of different parts, listed below, in no particular order:


  • Market research and assessment (Where Is the market for the product that you intend to make?)
  • Financial requirements (How much is everything going to cost?)
  • Sales and marketing requirements (Who are you going to sell to and how?)
  • Human resource requirements (What skills and competences are required?)
  • Equipment requirements (What will be used to make the product?)
  • Building requirements (Where is the work to be done?)
  • Operational requirements (What data is required to allow control of production?)
  • Supply requirements (How are you going to acquire and secure the necessary raw materials?)
  • Delivery requirements (How are you going to get you product to your customers?)


Download a template here

Download your template here
When you have filled in your template, click on the briefcase to store the document and add any notes about it in your notebook.


Now comes the obvious part: you don’t put effort into selling the delivery requirements part of your plan to the Finance Director. You don’t put effort into selling the results of your market assessment to your drivers. Obviously, your people need to know that your plan is sound from all angles, but the fact that the Finance Director signs—off on the financials and the Marketing Director signs—off on the marketing plan is usually sufficient for those people not in those sections of your business. Your entire team needs to be enthusiastic that your plan will succeed, but for the most part, they only need detailed information about the part that concerns them. So, understand your market and its individual components and tailor your message to fit that market.


To summarise so far: the market is your team, which is composed of different groups of people with different jobs and therefore different interests, apart from the common interest in your business surviving and succeeding, that is. Break down the market into appropriate blocks. Now look at the message that you want to give to each block. Some parts of the message can be the same for all (‘This plan is going to be great!’), and other parts can be different: finance for finance, human resource requirements for your personnel department. Communicate the right parts of the plan to the right parts of your team.

The more important the message, the more thought you require.

Now we come to the Medium part of the Market—Message—Media process. What routes are you are going to use to communicate your messages to the appropriate segments of your market? As with all things within your business, this requires some thinking to be done. The medium used to communicate the plan to market segment A (your sales team, for example) will probably be different to that needed to communicate with market segment B (your operations team). For example, it might be perfectly acceptable to send an email to the people working in your warehouse telling them what will be happening, but you try that with your investors and your ears will be ringing by the end of the day. Having put the effort in to identifying who needs to know what, don’t make a mess of it by not using the correct method of communication. Use efficient communication routes.


The above seems obvious if you think about it. Would you use a carrier pigeon to communicate with your Sales Director? No? Why not, it was a common form of communication for official channels last millennium? The reason that we don’t use it any longer is that there are more efficient methods of communication available to us now, and here is where you can avoid the failure abyss. ‘Efficient’ does not just mean ‘faster’. The most frequently used method of communication in business is now email. It’s faster than carrier pigeon, which should mean that more effort (time) can be put into the message’s content, but that isn’t always the case, as you undoubtedly already know.


There are many components that you need to get right if you are to maximise the probability that the message that you are trying to send is the one that is received. Table 4.1 lists some of the components of communication (there are more than you think) and offers some guidance on the kinds of things that you need to be thinking about.

Words DO: Use succinct, unambiguous words in a language suitable for the audience.

DON’T: Waffle, say ‘Great news’ when redundancies are coming, use ‘management speak’, e.g., synergy, win—win, operationalised, etc., when talking to anyone other than the Board.

Tone of voice DO: Sound enthusiastic and sincere.

DON’T: Use a monotone, sound bored, shout the message into someone’s ear.

Body language DO: Make eye contact and pay attention to your audience. Make them feel that they are the most important thing in your life at that moment.

DON’T: Keep looking at your phone whilst talking as if you are hoping that someone more interesting will rescue you from the situation.

Environment DO: Ensure that the space is comfortable and quiet, or otherwise suitable for the receipt of the message you are delivering.

DON’T: Use a graveyard to deliver a performance appraisal, it’ll send the wrong message!

Trust/respect between the parties DO: Tell the truth. It engenders loyalty, trust and respect. It’s also easier than trying to keep track of which lies you’ve told to whom.

DON’T: Continually interrupt someone, belittle their comments, laugh at their suggestions, and then expect them to listen to you in return.

Time of communication DO: Deliver good news at the earliest opportunity and complex messages when people are mentally alert.

DON’T: Ring someone at midnight to discuss the next week’s delivery schedule.

Mind—set of recipient DO: Deliver the message when the recipient is in the ‘right place’ psychologically to receive that message.

DON’T: Present your great plans for increasing the amount of work coming through your business to a team that is ‘frazzled’ by the amount they are currently being asked to do.

Table 4.1: Components of communication

There are many books available on how to communicate efficiently within business, but that amount of detail is beyond the scope of this course. For our purposes here, we’ll focus on just the first three components in Table 4.1: the words that you use, the tone of voice you employ and the body language you utilise to express yourself.


As a general rule, the more important the message, the more thought must be put into how to use the different components of communication. Get them right and the recipient will understands exactly what message you are trying to deliver. Get them wrong and the recipient will think that they understand you, and you will think that they understand you, but the message will be garbled because one or more of the parts of the message will be absent or inappropriate.


When communicating with your people, don’t mistake ‘fast’ for ‘best’. Within business the most common form of communication is email. Sure, it’s fast, but it is hardly guaranteed to be effective in all cases. Let’s do some thinking and see how email does as a method of communication by reviewing it against just the first three communication components from Table 4.1.

Words GOOD — email is composed of words. We’re not counting pictures or attached media here.
Tone of voice POOR — email has no tone of voice built into it. We’re not counting the use of emoticons.
Body language POOR — email has no body language built into it. Again, we’re not counting the use of emoticons.

Table 4.2: The efficiency of communication using email

Looking at Table 4.2, we can see that email does well on the ‘word’ front, so it’s fine if all you need are some words. Email is, therefore, an efficient method of communication for all sorts of day—to—day operational activities, like asking where an order is in the delivery pipeline, whether something is in stock, who’s in charge of getting the sandwiches in (hey, don’t knock it, food is important, an army marches on its stomach — Napoleon), etc. What email is not efficient for is complex communication, so using it to get the different people on your various teams ‘on board’ with your business plan is probably not a good idea.


Why not? Well, with just words and no other cues for guidance as to the meaning of the message, the interpretation can differ between the sender and the receiver. Try this simple thought experiment: imagine shaking hands with a member of your team who has done a fantastic job and saying the words ‘Thank you’ with all the sincerity that you can muster. This is a great way to motivate your people, incidentally: genuine, heartfelt gratitude.


Now, imagine that you have finally taken delivery of a report from one of your team, a report for which you have been waiting for ages. You were promised and promised and finally it’s here. You shout ‘Thank you’ sarcastically, with your hands on your hips and an undertone of ‘About blinking time!’ The message communicated in the two scenarios is very different: heartfelt gratitude versus disappointed annoyance, and yet the words used are exactly the same: ‘Thank you’. If those same words had been sent in two different emails, would the recipients have been aware of the different messages that the two emails were supposed to convey? That’s why tone of voice and body language can be very important. So, let’s now compare the words—only email method of communicating with a face—to—face meeting.


Words GOOD — we usually use words when speaking to someone rather, than, say whistles and squeaks!
Tone of voice GOOD — you cannot help but use your tone of voice when speaking. The important point is whether you can use the correct tone of voice.
Body language GOOD — your audience can see you and can thus gauge your level of engagement with the message that you’re trying to convey and your sincerity.

Table 4.3: The efficiency of communication using a face—to—face meeting


A face—to—face meeting scores well in all three categories and is, therefore, an efficient method of communication for more complex messages, where there may be questions and interaction from the audience, and where misunderstandings can be costly. What a face—to—face meeting might not be efficient for is simple communication (Who’s on—site today? Has that order come in yet? What time’s the meeting?), because the greater the number of components used, the greater the effort required in terms of time and money. However, if a misunderstanding could be potentially disastrous, then put some effort in to ensuring that the message sent is the one received.  Different methods of communication are useful for different purposes, so use them appropriately.


Imagine that these different methods of communication are different tools in your ‘management toolbox’. Having many tools is better. If all you have in your ‘toolbox’ is a ‘hammer’, then every problem starts to look like a ‘nail’. The more tools that you have, the greater the number of things you can build, jobs you can tackle and problems you can solve. So make sure that you use the right communication tool for the job.


Another consideration when communicating is that the chance of a misunderstanding will increase if you tell people what you want them to do, but not why you want them to do it. Let’s assume that you’ve seen a filing cabinet in the office that is blocking a fire exit. You tell one of your people to move the filing cabinet, but not why you want it shifted. It is ‘obvious’ to you that you want the fire exit to be unobstructed. However, the office in question is busy and cluttered, so your ‘mover’, not having been told why they are being asked to do it, doesn’t think and moves the six—foot tall pot plant from the corner of the office and replaces it with the filing cabinet. Now, where do they put the pot plant? Well, there’s a nice, handy space by the fire exit…you get the idea. Giving a ‘what’ without a ‘why’ is just asking for trouble.

Implementation will succeed where imposition fails.

Okay, you’re getting there. You’ve got a well—formulated plan, you’ve communicate the right parts to the right people in the right way, so that they understand what they are supposed to be doing and why. Now, all you need to make sure is that they are able to deliver on the plan. Well, to be strict, you need to know that someone can do what you’re asking them to do before you ask them to do it; it’s called planning! However, let’s just deal with how you know if someone is capable for now.


The two things that you need to know about the people implementing your plan are: have they been trained to do what is necessary and are they sufficiently competent? Why is their competence important? Well, let’s imagine that two musicians have both been trained to play the piano. They can both play all the scales and make a pleasing sound, but only one of them is competent to give recitals at the Royal Albert Hall. People can go through the same training and yet emerge with different levels of competence. Ensuring that your team is trained and demonstrably competent is simply common sense if you want a successful business. After all, you wouldn’t let someone who hadn’t passed their driving test drive your new Ferrari now would you?