Site Your Source

September 29, 2013

Perhaps top on my organizational pet peeve list is the use of anecdotal generalizations to influence or make decisions. It is simply a bad habit that too many people or employees use, knowingly or not. What am I talking about?

Site Your Source

Listen for examples using these key phrases –

  • “Our employees think”
  • “All of our dealers said”
  • “Management says”
  • “Our customers are all asking for it”

It is never this simple. Rarely do folks grab a proper sample of any of these groups before jumping into directional hyperbole. Too often people are speaking for their own interests and using the big vague group as a triangulation point. There are always missing puzzle pieces, and the pieces are unique. I advise you to be specific about how many and/or specifically who whenever possible if you are making a point or a case. How difficult is it to say something like “I spoke with two of our customers, Acme and Super Supply, and they were both consistent in saying…”

Break the Habit. Siting your source enhances your personal creditability, ensures proper context, and improves decision-making. Generalizations are dangerous.



July 16, 2013

Perhaps my favorite thought on communication can be summarized in one word – Context. I think of context like setting the table for dinner. It makes for a much better dinner. So many people dive right into the meal (conversation) without even telling their audience (individual or group) what or why, and base their presentations or meetings on too many assumptions. Context is key. My communication thesis is “Assumptions Kill.”

Here are a few keys to maximize your communication effectiveness in meetings or presentations:

  1. Do not assume your audience knows exactly what you are talking about (either the subject or the history).
  2. Make sure they understand the purpose and your goals for the discussion and/or conversation upfront. Explain in one or two quick statements very concisely, both the “what” and the “why.”
  3. Do not assume the audience or manager or receiver has the same outcome for the conversation as you.

These are simple preparatory mental cues to make sure all parties walk away and say “that was a good meeting (or presentation).” If context for the conversation or discussion is mutually known, then great understanding or decisions will result. Simple. Set the table with context.


There are thousands of great books and blogs on project management and the technical attributes of planning, charting, and executing. Find them; read them; use them. My take focuses more on the art of leading a project team that is intended to result in change – usually to a process or a visual output, like a brand, packaging or identity. As with most of Barnyard Management philosophy, the following seven steps are basic, but often skipped, and very important for a newbie or less experienced manager.

7 Steps for Success in a Change Project

1. Research and define the problem. Ensure your parameters for success are understood. Don’t just dive in.

2. Establish a clear Charter / Scope / Purpose. Write it down.

3. Get cover. Ensure executive sponsorship. This will be handy when things go sideways.

4. Bucket or segment the project into manageable bites – 2 to 3 phases, not more. Base hits count.

5. Ensure a small, energetic project team. Constantly bring them back to the purpose.

6. “Go Like Hell” before something changes too much. Implement quickly.

7. Communicate and hype (when appropriate). Hype is an art form and applied judiciously.

If you want more thoughts on the pros and cons of hype – and forms and timing – please feel free to contact me for added color. A cool name or project mark can help the cause. I am happy to share successes and failures. Hype works well for change adoption as it ups expectation and team accountability, but it requires exceptional creativity and 100% guaranteed delivery.