Posted by: kerrywills | June 15, 2018

Formatting matters

Recently I have been reviewing a set of working documents. Doing this reminded me of my inability to focus on the content when the writing is not organized or formatted properly. I find that when I review materials I usually look at it in the following order….

  1. Structure – First I look to see if the document is structured well with logical groupings, a reasonable flow of information and organized content in tables or bullets
  2. Formatting – Then I look at consistency of formatting including use of bullets, capitalization, periods and other grammatical considerations
  3. Content – Once the first two are satisfactory I can then read the content

I am sure that others read documents differently and many do not even “see” the structural and formatting issues that I do. I am not sure if this is because I have OCD or because I have written books before but I can not even get to the content if the document is sloppy. I view this like a programmer who should be “unit testing” their code before handing it off to a different team to test. When we document information we should own the quality of that document as a reflection of our reputation and how much we care.

Posted by: kerrywills | June 8, 2018

Long messages

On a typical day, I probably get over 200 email messages along with the 8-12 hours of meetings I have to attend. Like many, I need to multitask to stay on top of the many moving parts. On top of this, I have a very short attention span. So, the “Kryptonite” to my super powers of efficiency would be long emails.

Some people feel the need to write emails as if we are having a conversation and they need to articulate an entire story. I understand that sometimes it is hard to find meeting time but long emails are not the best solution. If I have to scroll to read it, the message is too long.


I do suspect that this is audience-specific and others may like long messages but for those people like me I would suggest the following…

  • If it is complex and requires a story, set up a meeting or call
  • If there is no time for a meeting, call out the key points up front – summarize them and then leave the details below should we want to read further
  • Organize the message into categories, sections or bullets so it doesn’t read like a long novel
Posted by: kerrywills | June 1, 2018

Laurel and Yanny

If you are connected to the Internet, then you must have heard the audio file going around where some people heard it say “Laurel” and some people heard it say “Yanny.” While I won’t get into the science behind it, I will say this concept is relevant in our wok environments because oftentimes people hear different things said or interpret things differently. This can have implications on our projects, especially in an environment of complexity where we have many people working on many different things. So, it is important to ensure that communications and expectations are clear.


Some points to consider

  • Be clear on expectations and key points
  • Be concise so as to focus on key points and not lose them with extraneous details
  • Document important concepts for people to visually see them and understand them
  • Repeat back information to people to confirm understanding


These are just a few ideas but the concept is to be conscious of what people are hearing so we don’t have half the team working on “Laurel” work and the other half on “Yanny.”

Posted by: kerrywills | May 25, 2018

Involving People

People need to feel involved. This sounds like a very basic concept but it is at the core of every change management initiative that I have ever worked on. It is also the piece that seems to be overlooked often as well. Many times initiatives involve people as needed and focus on a targeted set of stakeholders. Not only do we need deliberate communications plans but we also need to consider how we involve and engage people. People who do not feel involved will not only have a bad feeling, but they can bring others down, disrupt success and cause other problems.

There are several ways to consider involving people in changes…

  1. Communicate to them – at the very least people need to be aware of what is happening. The absence of this will cause them to make up what they think is happening
  2. Communications are typically a “push” model but there should also be some “pull” where feedback is solicited from team members. When they feel like they are listened to, they are more likely to support the initiative. Now the key here is to DO something with the feedback and get back to them, otherwise credibility is lost
  3. Involve them – even better than telling people things and asking for feedback, involving them in the change is the best way to get buy-in


Posted by: kerrywills | May 18, 2018

Baghdad Bob

I remember watching the war in Iraq when I was younger (the first time we invaded in 2003). I also remember an Iraqi official who would come onto television and proclaim how Iraq was winning the war and had no problems. Meanwhile, everything behind him seemed to be on fire. This person was nicknamed “Baghdad Bob.”


This is not meant to be a political post so much as to point out that we oftentimes work with our own “Baghdad Bob” counterparts. These are people who tell senior management that everything is fine and that they are being successful, but just likeĀ  with our friend, Bob, if you look closer you see everything is on fire.

So, the lesson is to be honest with the status of our programs so we can get help if we need it. Because if we ignore our real problems, everything may be in ashes by the time we acknowledge them.


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