Most of us have had an experience where we have given someone an assignment only to come back later and hear the claim that you never said the things you know you said. If this happens frequently, it’s likely one of two things: either you’re losing your mind (which can be true from week to week), or you are not communicating effectively. Something has to change.
Rita Mae Brown wrote in her book, Sudden Death, that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.” You change the way you do business when a model doesn’t work, why not do the same for the way you interface with your coworkers? If you’re having trouble getting positive results from your communication, start thinking SMART.
Think SMART; Communicate S.M.A.R.T.
Thinking SMART might eliminate those gaps in communication. You probably remember mnemonic devices and acronyms you learned as far back as grammar school. They’re simple and effective, and once you learn them, they stick. That’s why S.M.A.R.T. works so well—once you learn it, you’ll think about it every time you convey tasks. Make some space and let this sink in if you’re tired of the frustration of miscommunication.
Specific– Make sure you convey the who and what of your objective. Know your expectations.
Measurable– Outline the goal for the end result. Both parties should have a clear understanding of what you are trying to achieve. This lets you map out the task and enables you to evaluate progress.
Attainable– Set realistic goals. Use this opportunity to communicate your planning methodology.
Repeatable– Give the opportunity to confirm what you’ve just said. You can’t assume your message was understood or even received unless you have feedback.
Terminate– Conclude the conversation and make sure both parties understand what needs to happen next.
So how does it work? It’s a joint effort between both parties. Providing the Specific-Measurable-Attainable part of the equation is the responsibility of the individual giving the instructions. Following up with the Repeatable-Terminate is the responsibility of the individual receiving the instructions. Combined, they equal SMART Communication, which results in less confusion, fewer misunderstandings, less duplication of work. If you start training new employees to think and communicate this way from the very beginning, you’ll be able to avoid a lot of headaches and lay down the foundation for successful communication for years to come.
An Example of Giving Instructions the SMART Way
Bob, I would like you to work directly with Jane to develop detailed instructions on how to change over the labeler [Specific]. Our indicators, or deliverables, will be; one S.O.P. (Standard Operating Procedure), and one 1-point lesson – using our standard template [Measurable]. Please use a combination of interviewing subject matter experts, and observation of the actual process to complete the assignment, tracking each task in the SOP process form [Attainable] .
An Example of Receiving Instructions the SMART Way
If I understand, [Repeatable], I work with Jane to develop instructions on how to change over the labeler [Specific]. We need to create one S.O.P. and one 1-point lesson [Measurable] by interviewing SMEs and observing the changeover process while we track tasks in the SOP form [Attainable]. Correct? Let me end by saying, I believe this can be accomplished and I will have this to you by 6 pm Tuesday evening [Terminate].
SMART Communications will help to reduce misunderstandings and frustration, and lead to a more productive and engaged workforce.