#20 Are you shoveling or are you shovel-ready?

by | Mar 9, 2009 | Blog | 0 comments

shovel-014Are you shovel-ready or are you always shoveling? From a LEAN Communications perspective, being shovel-ready is a helpful state of being for you and your customers. The act of shoveling though is a occupational hazard for your customers—that is the stakeholders to whom you communicate.

What’s the difference between these two?

Shovel-ready as a technical term has been around since the mid-1990s, but it became a buzz word this past year. From the technical sense, shovel-ready describes infrastructure projects that companies and governments can start quickly, especially in response to the US economic stimulus package that President Obama signed into law in February. Shovel-ready sites are certified< as ready for development. The site is available, has access to utilities, is designed for specific types of development, and has all the necessary permits for constructions. In a LEAN environment, shovel-ready follows the PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle that is core to LEAN.

Shoveling as a communications term refers to shoveling out stuff (SOS).  Over the years, many organizational and corporate communications professionals have adopted this practice, which favors quantity over quality.  In this tough economic environment in which we also have easy access to so much information and other stuff, shoveling should be outlawed. It clutters peoples’ brains as well as the environment.

So anyone who’s dumping data onto people should stop. And don’t use the excuse that data dumping makes you transparent. True, if you’re shoveling out everything that comes your way, you’re not hiding anything. But you’re also preventing people from easily finding the needles in the haystack and other gems. It’s way too hard for them to sift through everything, find what they need, and figure out the meaning.

Instead, your approach should be to synthesize meaningful data. Then interpret it for people to help them understand the big picture and the important details, especially the linkage to their daily jobs.  Also describe the actions they need to take or might want to consider taking, if action is optional. Yes, by doing this, you’re also sharing your point of view. Yet as a synthesizer, that’s part of your “value add.”

As a synthesizer, you’re acting as a type of Sherpa, guiding people through difficult terrain. From your stakeholders’ perspective, the benefits of having a Sherpa, whether for an expedition to Mt. Everest  or for a financial report, are:

  • You clear a path for them that they can follow faster. This is especially helpful if the source documentation is complex, technical, or in a language other than their first language.
  • You are able to jumpstart them to consider the most salient points of the information, which is especially important if they’re pressed for time. And who isn’t these days?
  • By presenting clear concise information in an engaging manner, you may spark their interest to ask questions, learn more and become more engaged. This may be especially true if they discover they don’t agree with either your synthesis or point of view. For example, they may decide to challenge you and anybody else who will pay attention by shoveling through the source documentation and other resources and coming up with their own interpretation. This can make for a hearty dialogue, which is certainly a healthier situation than people overlooking all the stuff shoveled their way.

LEAN Communications advocates action; however, it’s got to be the right action. So get shovel-ready and build a trail for your stakeholders. Resist the easy way out to shovel things to them.

How are you becoming shovel-ready?

–Liz Guthridge, The LEAN Communicator


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