How complexity hinders messaging—and tips for streamlining
Internal communicators like to get things done.
We like to churn out content, share information and make things happen, and
we like to do everything quickly.
Our biggest frustrations occur when we hit roadblocks and projects grind to
a screeching halt. Those roadblocks can take lots of shapes and sizes: An
executive changes her mind, an email is missed, the lawyer reworks a
paragraph into a page.
It’s OK. Stuff happens in business. Occasionally, you’re going to miss the
mark with a message or run into a leader who just doesn’t like a particular
piece of communication. That’s life.
However, if these obstacles are springing up over and over—and if you’re
finding that it’s becoming more difficult to get your job done—the issue
may be something more systemic. Unnecessary complexity might be rearing its
For internal communicators, complexity kills.
Luckily, if you know how to spot the signs of complexity, you can simplify
your work and drive needless complexity out before it drives you out of the
Here are three surefire signs that your internal communications processes
have become too complex and you need to simplify your world:
1. Your approval process makes it difficult to share timely information.
In internal communications, the approval process is necessary, but it
doesn’t have to be onerous. If running things through the approval process
is taking days or weeks instead of minutes or hours, there’s a problem.
A sure sign that your approval process has gotten out of control is if you
find yourself repurposing previously approved content verbatim simply to
avoid the approval process. Repurposing is not a bad thing (it can be
helpful in emphasizing vital messages), but simply copying and pasting
content over and over is a recipe for reader apathy.
If this is happening, sit down with the approvers and develop a process
that works for everyone—allowing you to share necessary information and
allowing executives and your legal advisors to feel comfortable that
everything has been vetted appropriately.
2. Your communications are littered with jargon.
Occasionally (OK, all the time), executives make changes to internal
communications that muddy messages with business-speak, acronyms and
That’s not OK. Business
jargon kills trust and makes otherwise simple messages opaque. If your internal communications
include lots of jargon, your messages are probably not getting through to a
chunk of your audience.
[FREE GUIDE: How any communicator can bring dull stories to life]
Sit down with your bosses, and tell them about the perils of jargon.
Explain that keeping language simple will strengthen your internal
communication and help you get more messages out the door in less time.
They might not change their ways right away, so keep trying.
3. You’re sharing, posting or changing the same things in multiple
Sharing information among the communications team is important, but the
process of saving and archiving materials shouldn’t be redundant. If you
find yourself (or your colleagues) saving files to a shared network folderand a shared intranet folder and your desktop and maybe a mobile device or two, then you’re archiving process is
Consider getting IT involved to come up with a better solution to share
files among communications team members, and consider sharing fewer files.
Not everyone needs instant access to every jpg, PPT and Word doc. If most
people don’t need access, don’t worry about sharing it.
Drive out the complexity from your internal communication processes, and
you might get more done, be more timely and accurate with your
communications, and get a full night’s sleep.
Gene Nichols is a managing partner of
Lean Out Communications.