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Building a Structure of Common Language
This is a guest post by Jonathan Smith.
In a prior post titled, “The Cure is a Common Language,” we outlined some of the benefits of a common language for organizations, including bringing your team together, eliminating gray areas, and improving overall communication. In the work that we do with our clients at The CP Journal, we teach the baselining process to improve situational awareness, which incorporates the four pillars of observable behavior. We do this because it offers clear terms and justification for individuals, groups, the environment, and the collective mood, which can help make more informed decisions. It is worth noting that we aren’t in favor creating and requiring formal scripts for employees, because it often takes away their ability to think critically. Instead, we favor creating a framework and vocabulary that can be applied to any environment at any time that everyone can universally implement as part of his or her operational processes. In our experience working with our client partners at The CP Journal, we have identified three basic steps that you can implement immediately to build your own internal common language.
The first step is to get everyone in a room together. While this can sometimes be a feat in and of itself, if it’s just not possible, you can begin by getting representation from every piece of your organization together first. Ideally this group will be made up of leaders or training coordinators that will be able to easily transfer information to everyone in their respective groups. This is especially worthwhile if you are part of a large organization, with people located all over the world. Once you have every group in a room you can begin by brainstorming every possible scenario that you want to be prepared for. The most fun way to do this is for everyone to grab a pen, marker, or chalk, and shout out these scenarios with a dedicated scribe writing everything down. Once you have a broad list of potential events, you can bucket them into categories, where issues that fall into similar categories of importance get grouped together. Maybe you have a category for workplace threats and maybe there’s one for individual oddities. Don’t start with the buckets. Start with the brainstorming for your organization and then bucket them, so that you don’t limit yourselves.
The second step is delivering a high-quality training program. While many of our readers have experience both training and building training programs themselves, it’s worth the reminder that a great training program begins with the end in mind. By working with your leadership team to outline the ideal end-state vision for the team, you can back into the steps involved in your training program and build accordingly. In basic terms, what does that look like? For example, let’s say you are building a training program for your retail service reps that handle customer questions. As a leadership team you must first sit down and walk through the buckets that you built during the prior step and outline your vision for every ideal answer to potential questions. Then, you will have to build tools and resources to teach your team in a way that ensures they will be able to deliver to the end client and then design the training based on these goals.
The third step to building a successful internal common language is ongoing reinforcement and rewarding positive behaviors. When any change is brought about within organizations there will naturally be people that embrace the change and those that are averse to it. It is up to the leadership team to continue to illustrate the benefits of the change and then slowly use examples from the team to demonstrate why it works and how everyone can benefit. Early on you will need to identify change champions and recognize them for accepting the change and making it a part of their practice. As you continue to build on the successes of the implementation and if, of course, the change is positive, you will gradually see the team adapt to the practices as a whole.
Based on the successes we have seen in our client markets with these three steps, taking a team approach to building the components, designing and implementing a high quality training program, and ongoing reinforcement of the message, are all crucial steps in building processes around a common language. In both large and small organizations, ambiguity can often cause conflict and confusion. By building and fostering an environment around a common internal language you will eliminate that ambiguity, improve team communication, and bring your team together to meet organizational goals.