How complexity hinders messaging—and tips for streamlining

You have stuff to do, and between getting approvals and deciphering the executive VP’s blather, the bottleneck is creating a backlog. Time to de-clog the pipeline.


Internal communicators like to get things done.

We like to churn out content, share information and make things happen, and we like to do everything quickly.

Our biggest frustrations occur when we hit roadblocks and projects grind to a screeching halt. Those roadblocks can take lots of shapes and sizes: An executive changes her mind, an email is missed, the lawyer reworks a paragraph into a page.

It’s OK. Stuff happens in business. Occasionally, you’re going to miss the mark with a message or run into a leader who just doesn’t like a particular piece of communication. That’s life.

However, if these obstacles are springing up over and over—and if you’re finding that it’s becoming more difficult to get your job done—the issue may be something more systemic. Unnecessary complexity might be rearing its ugly head.

For internal communicators, complexity kills.

Luckily, if you know how to spot the signs of complexity, you can simplify your work and drive needless complexity out before it drives you out of the industry.

Here are three surefire signs that your internal communications processes have become too complex and you need to simplify your world:

1. Your approval process makes it difficult to share timely information.

In internal communications, the approval process is necessary, but it doesn’t have to be onerous. If running things through the approval process is taking days or weeks instead of minutes or hours, there’s a problem.

A sure sign that your approval process has gotten out of control is if you find yourself repurposing previously approved content verbatim simply to avoid the approval process. Repurposing is not a bad thing (it can be helpful in emphasizing vital messages), but simply copying and pasting content over and over is a recipe for reader apathy.

If this is happening, sit down with the approvers and develop a process that works for everyone—allowing you to share necessary information and allowing executives and your legal advisors to feel comfortable that everything has been vetted appropriately.

2. Your communications are littered with jargon.

Occasionally (OK, all the time), executives make changes to internal communications that muddy messages with business-speak, acronyms and industry lingo.

That’s not OK. Business jargon kills trust and makes otherwise simple messages opaque. If your internal communications include lots of jargon, your messages are probably not getting through to a chunk of your audience.

Sit down with your bosses, and tell them about the perils of jargon. Explain that keeping language simple will strengthen your internal communication and help you get more messages out the door in less time.

They might not change their ways right away, so keep trying.

3. You’re sharing, posting or changing the same things in multiple places.

Sharing information among the communications team is important, but the process of saving and archiving materials shouldn’t be redundant. If you find yourself (or your colleagues) saving files to a shared network folderand a shared intranet folder and your desktop and maybe a mobile device or two, then you’re archiving process is too complex.

Consider getting IT involved to come up with a better solution to share files among communications team members, and consider sharing fewer files. Not everyone needs instant access to every jpg, PPT and Word doc. If most people don’t need access, don’t worry about sharing it.

Drive out the complexity from your internal communication processes, and you might get more done, be more timely and accurate with your communications, and get a full night’s sleep.

Gene Nichols is a managing partner of Lean Out Communications.

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