Thousands of years ago, when mankind was first starting out(bear with me, I'll get to BI soon), we started to develop written ways of communicating. To call this "language" would probably be a bit too generous, as it was mostly pictures and symbols early on. However, over time, they became much more mature in their style and efficiency. Then communication got easier. We could coordinate better. Soon, we were making plans to build buildings, and whole settlements instead of “Which direction will we attack the beast from?” Eventually, we started making bigger cities, and with that, we needed more goods. So we started trading with our neighbors.
This is where the problem starts.All these different people developed their own disparate languages. They had little in common in syntax and grammar, let alone spelling or even similar symbols. However, one brilliant merchant came up with a fantastic idea. Use a single set of symbols to represent sounds, and then teach those symbols to the various groups of people. Now, this wouldn't get them all speaking the exact same language, but it would make translation, and by extension communication, much easier. If you clicked the link above, you'll easily see how these early symbols quickly became what we know as "the Roman Alphabet."
Last week, I talked about how tying the different aspects of an operation together could vastly improve efficiency and therefor performance. What I only touched on, that I'd like to talk a little more about, is why that communication is important, and next week, I'll talk about how to make that communication happen.
As the title suggests, I think the most important step into making that communication not only possible, but easy, is through a "common language." While we can safely assume that everyone in any given business is going to(more or less) speak the same language, there's a distinction between what we literally say and what we mean.Without a base level of understanding, how could anyone ever hope to get anything accomplished?
The important thing to understand here is quite simple; because our roles in an operation are different than everyone else's, we must lay groundwork for a common understanding. Certainly, our coworkers who are in the same department or on the same project as us will understand our specific jargon, phrases, acronyms and symbols. But what about everyone outside of those circles? Those are the people where it’s vitally important to create a common understanding with.
In smaller organizations, this can be pretty simple to set up. In fact, in any group under 10 people, it might not even be a conversation that needs to be had, as you talk with everyone frequently enough that the understanding isn't just clear, it's gained without effort. This effortlessness is also often felt within all small groups, we quickly gain jargon, acronyms, phrases, and even inside jokes that become commonplace among a group of people who work closely together. What can happen is that we sometimes forget that while someone might work in the same company we do, they might not know every specific term or euphemisms we use.
The larger scale problem with this is easy to see as well. Anything that slows down communication is inherently inefficient. Any second spent explaining any unfamiliar terminology to someone is a second wasted. Those seconds can mean lost product, a patient’s health, or broken equipment. Obviously some accidents will happen regardless of how efficient you are or how much care you take. But improved communication will help in these instances as well, as you’re better equipped to deal with the problem.
So, while it’s pretty clear thatcommon communication is needed, getting your organization to that point can bedifficult. Next week, I’ll talk more about how to do that, and how BI can help.
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