Failure to communicate: fatal to projects (and political parties)

Alan Pringle / Opinion3 Comments

Over the weekend, I was catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen since the mid-term elections here in the US. While hashing out what the election results meant, my friend said that he felt that history would be kinder to the accomplishments of Congress than the electorate was.

I asked my friend to consider the relationship of Congress to its constituents as a business relationship. Congress is a business with a very large set of clients. When a company does work for a client, the business must clearly and continuously communicate with the client about the work the company is doing and how that work benefits the client. That communication is particularly crucial when you’re making major changes to an existing workflow (in the case of Congress, healthcare reform comes to mind). Otherwise, the outcome is likely to be negative, and the company (or the majority political party) will find itself falling head first into a ditch:

Regardless of how you feel about what the current Congress accomplished, I think we can all agree that clear communication is rarely a strength of any government.

Have I oversimplified things here? Perhaps. But an inability to boil down your efforts and accomplishments on a project and clearly explain them to a client creates a dangerous disconnect. Can you, for example, summarize what you plan to do, what you have completed, and the benefits of those tasks on an index card (or the digital equivalent)? If you can’t, you likely have a failure in communication that endangers the project—and your relationship with your client.

About the Author

Alan Pringle


Content strategy consulting. Publishing (electronic and print). Eating (preferably pastries and chocolate). COO at Scriptorium.

3 Comments on “Failure to communicate: fatal to projects (and political parties)”

  1. I think you have oversimplified things a little bit, Alan. A representative government isn’t the same thing as a business doing work for a client. And the business likely doesn’t have to raise its voice to be heard above the din of the spin doctors and all of the others who purvey their own versions of the “truth” to advance their self interests.

    Nonetheless, the gist of your point is true: The business, like the government, owes its constituency a clear accounting of what it’s doing, and why. In basic terms (I like your idea of an index card). In language the constituency can understand.

  2. I find that political entities do not want communicate when they make back door policy against the will of the people, especially when they don’t read the bills they pass. I do think this analogy is a gross simplification. That being said, as a technical writer dealing with a client, communication is imperative. Does anyone have a way of translating effort into a dollars and cents perspective. Some people say that our efforts should be communicated in this manner. I am not sure how to go about this. Any thoughts?


    1. Mary, Sarah O’Keefe is doing a free webcast next week on measuring the return on investment on a DITA implementation. Even if you’re not thinking about DITA, the webcast may help you get into the mindset of communicating in “dollars and cents,” as you mentioned.

      You can register for the webcast here.

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