May 5, 2014 by smallarmyjeff
Do you spend a lot of time reviewing work? I do – not only my own work, but other people’s as well. And, after years of doing this, I’ve learned to ask three simple questions to make things better.
1. What’s the goal?
Whether explicitly written or not, the goal of any communication should be clear up-front. What is the key point you are trying to communicate and what action(s) needs to be taken. If the goal is not clear, the communication will not be effective.
2. What’s Missing?
You need to read beyond what’s on the paper and ask yourself if the whole story is being told. Is background needed? Are all appropriate perspectives being shared? Are there additional data points that can help achieve the goal? This is often the most challenging question as it can be difficult to respond to something that is not in front of you.
3. What’s irrelevant?
Be respectful of people’s time. Take a close look to see what can be cut. Has information been repeated? Is there any information that is not really needed to make the point? Are there extra words and phrases that can go? Less is more. Get to the point and move on.
I’m as guilty as anyone for making style edits as well (sorry, I’m working on it). But, my most substantive feedback – and the best way I’ve been able to help others become better communicators – is when I focus on these questions. I hope they help you (and those who you help) as well.
As always, please share your thoughts.
Thanks for reading, and have a great day.