The Value of Clear Communication

It has definitely been a while since the last time I wrote anything on this blog.  Indeed, a lot has happened in that time period.  I hope to have the chance to write on much of it in the coming weeks.  For now, I will share this quick story of recent lesson I learned.

In my work as a subcontractor, I was invited to conduct an evaluation of a grant-funded program.  After our first meeting, I thought I had a pretty good handle on what was expected.  I filled the report with demographics, GIS, and statistical analysis just like I would fill any report that I write for academic purposes.   However, I found out I was wrong when I received the responses for my first draft.   Here is a brief sampling of what I received back:

“This consultant needs to write in language that everyday people will understand.”

“The demographics information should be placed in an appendix since much of it was already covered in the RFP.”

“This consultant does not appear to have fully engaged the stakeholders of this project.”

Needless to say, it is not a good idea to work as a consulting if you have trouble taking constructive criticism.  The client had apparently planned on distributing the report to people involved in the program instead of just submitting it to their funders.  It turned out that I never actually inquired about the audience of this report.  I learned an important lesson about the depth of questions necessary to assure that I am meeting a client’s needs.

The unfortunate reality is that my training as an academic often causes me to think differently than the practitioners I consult with.  As a result, I have to challenge myself to switch between both thought processes.  Thankfully, that was only the first draft.  By the end, I was able to come up with a report that more adequately served their purposes and a plan on how to better serve this client in the future.

About Spencer

Spencer T. Clayton is the founder of Steps Toward Change Research Group, LLC. He is a graduate of Yale University and a current student at Rutgers University where his research concentration is the structure and strategy of faith-based organizations. When he is not busy running his consulting group, he works as an Executive Pastor, freelance writer, and blogger on his personal website Ministerial Life.

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