The Art and Science of Communication

Raj Ramesh does a great job of explaining how capabilities work in business architecture. One capability where organizations and individuals sometimes inaccurately assume competence is Communication.

“The single greatest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

George Bernard Shaw


Effective communication is a high impact, low cost capability that can be an incredible competitive advantage creating efficient, agile execution and high trust environments aligned with strategic objectives.

We all think we are good communicators because we know what we mean as we attempt to convey our message. However, it is not the job of our audience to listen, it is our job to make them hear. Assuring our teams and affected audiences understand what we intend is the tough part. Inspiring them to take action can even be more difficult.

When I work on project teams I’ll ask participants if everyone is clear on objectives and responsibilities. I’ll hear “yes, we had a meeting.” ONE meeting? Expecting that one meeting will be enough when trying to influence a complex transformation is highly unlikely. Expecting that one meeting reached your audience in a way that will influence their comprehension and change behaviors is improbable.

In today’s environment we are inundated with communication impacting our ability to remember and retain detail.

In the Mad Men days of advertising a common statistic was, ‘you had to hear a message 7 times to understand it.’ Today, as we have so many causes requiring our attention, demanding action from us, messages need much more repetition.

We need to communicate in such a way that people will understand. We all have audio, visual and kinesthetic learning abilities. It’s important to reach audiences in all ways to ensure our message is understood.

A great course that helps individuals enhance their writing skills is given by PowerSuasion. PowerSuasion will evaluate five writing samples and creating a Writing Profile and a Writing Editing Guide. These tools will help writers understand where they are falling short in writing and give them a tool that will guide them in improving. When I took the assessment I submitted an article, a proposal, a presentation, an email and a letter for professional review. The consistent mistakes I made through the different channels were eye-opening. I also learned about my strengths in writing and became a more courageous writer. In addition I learned how to use each medium its fullest advantage.

If you’d like to increase the capability of Communication in your teams and your organization ensure the continuous learning about the discipline of Communication is an individual priority and an organizational priority.


What does the term “architecture” mean in business?

The term architecture means looking at a business problem or an opportunity from the greatest context possible considering factors that may or may not seem to impact the result to define the most thoughtful approach to implementing a solution.

My friend and colleague Raj Ramesh explains the concept more clearly in this three minute video:





Why is Fast better than Slow?

When an outsider evaluates the progress of a project a question that often comes up is . . . “how long did that take you?” There might be a touch of cynicism in the tone, a little judgment. The assumption is progress is taking too long. Team members also may value fast progress over slower progress.

Illustration of an old alarm clock with a globe behind

The time it takes to achieve a task is only one measurement. When gauging progress consider the following categories.To remain agile — assign a status of High, Medium, Low to this assessment. In your project are you:

  • Building a strong business foundation?
  • Taking thoughtful risk and assessing consequences carefully?
  • Are you anticipating risk and planning for possible outcomes?
  • Have you employed thoughtful recovery from failure?
  • Are you using resources wisely?
  • Are you employing a sage use of time?
  • Is your work aligned with the organization’s vision? strategy?
  • Is every action true to the organization’s values?
  • What is the best possible solution considering your current capabilities?
  • Are you establishing realistic goals? adjusting when necessary? Are your processes as efficient as they can be?
  • Is there effective Leadership on all levels?

Once you apply a high, medium or low status to the above then determine if you are moving too fast or too slow.

Be careful of letting a stopwatch alone dictate your results.






Creating a Vision

Visions are often a very powerful unifying force amongst teams of people attempting to achieve common goals. You can have a vision for your organization, your team, or your project.

Simon Sinek describes why knowing ‘why’ you are doing something is important in this 5 minute video.


I gained a deeper understanding of Leadership while working on an assignment at a financial services company that serves the military and members of the military community. Like many people I thought Leadership means that the person in the corner office does the right thing for the benefit of the organization’s mission and for all, while giving clear direction. I thought Leadership meant that Leader had personal integrity and could be trusted. I learned the military professes we are all Leaders. We demonstrate our Leadership every day in our actions, our decisions, and our interactions. In today’s competitive, ambiguous, fluid and transparent world personal Leadership skills are increasingly important.


As a consultant, there are times, when I’m asked to weigh in, in confidence, on the behaviors of those I work with. I take the responsibility seriously and give my answers thoughtfully and carefully. I know that my answers have the power to help the person we are discussing succeed or can sometimes even influence their exit. I personally believe that every person comes to work every day to give the greatest contribution that they can. If, for some reason, they are not doing the right things, they have not been given the proper direction or support. They may be working with broken processes. When I’m giving tough love to clients I’ll tell them “you get what you build”. If your employees are cynical and not contributing to their best ability –” you built that.” If your employees are motivated, engaged, and contribute beyond your expectations, “you built that too.” If you want different behaviors, you must conduct some critical self-assessment and ask yourself what you and your organization can do differently.


A manager brought me in his office to ask about one of the employees I was assigned to work with. The employee did not acknowledge my emails, if he showed up for meetings he showed up late. He was often un-prepared and un-informed although this employee was pleasant, knowledgeable and well-liked.


Here’s an excerpt of our conversation:


“Alicia, what do you think of John? Is he pulling his weight on this project?” (I hear the subtext here, the manager is not asking an exploring question, he’s leading me to validate his opinion the employee is not pulling his weight)
My response, “John is very bright, he has a lot to contribute, I do, however, think he can work on his leadership skills.”
The manager leans forward, not expecting this answer. “John’s not the leader on the project.”
I reply, “True, however he’s an important team member. Emails are often not consistently answered in a timely manner, if at all. He does not regularly attend meetings. If he’s absent from meetings, he does not send a delegate or ask for meeting notes. His input is critical. We won’t be successful without him. By raising the bar on this behavior, we will run a more efficient project and manage resources more effectively.”


The manager leans back in his chair with a new awareness and is now armed with information to better help his team member achieve greater success, through improved leadership skills.


We are all leaders. We demonstrate it every day in all we do.


I really wanted to use this photo as the cover photo in the website.







The message it demonstrated to me was that NLA works with smart, independent people that excel individually to achieve common goals.


The second photo of one person helping the other up the mountain was intended to demonstrate that we provide assistance and fill gaps so that the we can enable and unlock the potential of the smart, independent people we work with.



I couldn’t find the rights to the first photo. I searched everywhere. I searched in Google Images, I searched in ThinkStock. I became pre-occupied with the importance of this photo, of the image and the idea that I wanted to present.


I was at a crossroads. It’s not right to steal an artist’s photo. Artists are a group that are often exploited, under-appreciated, under-recognized and under-paid. Someone somewhere stood in the freezing cold to capture that shot. They deserved compensation or at least credits for the photo and I couldn’t find it.


Posting the photo without permission seems like a small risk and it probably is. I see images used commercially that I know are not available for commercial use. When I see it, I recognize it as wrong. I judge the people who used those images and I shake my head at organizations that allow it.


Could I now allow myself to be in that category — the apathetic category?


After some time, I realized that there are many great photos I could use properly that would convey a similar message. I finally chose the three figures standing on a mountain top, independently. We’ve received several compliments on the imagery.


Corporate values are important. They are the guideposts that help employees make decisions when they are at the crossroads and there’s no one around to give permission. Sound values create agility in problem solving and enable speed to market with new products and services. Authentic values attract and retain high caliber teams.


At NLA two of our core values are ‘maximizing individual contributions’ and assuring ‘fair compensation’ for those we work with. Stealing a photo from an artist is not the right thing to do. Thoughtlessly using a photo without permission is not the right thing to do.


You might be asking why the photo is presented in this blog? Is it ok to showcase work in a blog?


It’s ok. Blogs are not designed for commerce but to share information. It’s a shade of gray but an important distinction.


Solid corporate values will empower employees and leaders to make the best possible decisions with the information they have available to them, with the purest intent they can at the time in our fluid and ambiguous world.





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