Saturday, February 25, 2012

unWritten Rule 14 - Strive for brevity and clarity

It takes longer to write cleanly and crisply.  It shows respect for the time of others when you do (write cleanly).

As you grow in position and assume roles of increasing responsibility and complexity, you truly appreciate those who communicate with brevity and clarity.  Their e-mails, notes and reports will get read!  Conversely, and sadly, good ideas in hard-to-open packages wrapped with complicated bows may be overlooked.

William H. Swanson


Steve said...

One ought to be able to state the essential idea of one's plan in a single page - better still, in a single paragraph on that page. Recall, also, that some style manuals allow a single paragraph to be printed in double-spacing. The admiral does not have time to slog through action officer pose when his next battle is with the DoD Comptroller - and waged in numbers.

Steve Myers

Anonymous said...

And thus the problem we have today. Going for the simple and quick vice the well thoughtout. Make the time and/or slow down the process so justice can be done. We can no longer afford to waste money on ill formed deisions.

Anonymous said...

He is probably correct?

Steve said...

The workload on senior military and civilians in DoD ia so great that clear, brief treatment of the very impacting or sensitive issues they face has to be the standard procedure.

As an action officer in the joint staff J3 almost 3 decades ago, we were told to not count on getting any flag officer time before at least 1600 hours on any given day. When not on travel, the normal general officer schedule consisted of meetings and situation briefings up to mid-day, including working lunches and if lucky, an hour the pentagon fitness center. As many of the pentagon workforce started to close up shop in late afternoon, the seniors got down to working through their in baskets -and if possible, seeing action officers for guidance and review of this or that staff plans issue.
Many was the day when I and my trusty locked briefcase at 1730 waited in a three-star outer office only to have his exec or secretary (who was garnering yet more overtime)tell me that he/she had been called to a meeting with a four-star or higher - and that I was welcome to wait until the general came back. More than one secretary told me that the boss frequently did not leave work until 2000 hrs.

Hence the one paragraph rule of thumb. For certain, a single paragraph impact statement was backed up by note books prepared for the seniors and their immediate staff.

As matter of fact, I think most decision papers were already agreed upon prior to the final meeting of the principals.

PS: My time in the J3 barrel was before everyone was fused at the hip by PC's. Today's reality has to make things easier - or worse!

Anonymous said...

Captain Lambert,

Having been an LPO with 6 years in the Navy and for the next 18 years being lucky enough to advance fairly quickly I found that I was required to take up the slack on numerous occasions for individuals that either were unable or unwilling to do certain tasks. This typically required written reports and I found through that experience that the less you write, provided you gave enough detail for good understanding, the better it was received by the command. I have become wordier in recent years, but I feel that there is a lot to say that requires more than brief concurrence or disagreement with words submitted by other posters.

Very Respectfully,

Anonymous said...

Results speaks for themselves. Look at the state we are in wrt ship building. Countless other programs as well. We have to change how we are doing business. I applaud the gentlement for all the work he has done on the joint Staff but the process must be slowed down so justice can be done. If too much is on the plate then we need to prioritize better. Cramming it all in and making hasty decisions now has gotten us to where we are today.

HMS Defiant said...

I used to support visiting flags and their need for internet connectivity hi and low was lost on me until one of them said that he was getting about 400 emails a day on both networks. If he fell behind he was doomed.

When my good peers were promoted to admiral I kept my congrats to not more than 3 sentences and finished by saying that I knew how busy they were.