Effective Communication:

Signs of Operational Effectiveness

“If you just communicate, you can get by.

But if you communicate skillfully, you can work miracles.”

– Jim Rohn, author, speaker, entrepreneur

It is Girl Scout Cookies’ season. Every year it reminds me of an amusing family story. My parents believed in supporting young adults in their many efforts, whether it was through Boys Scouts, Girls Scouts, or other organizations. This included contributing to the various fund raisers. One year, our family ended up with 37 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies, much to the chagrin of my parents and the amusement of my brother and me.

It also exemplified a lack of communication between my parents. They had not discussed their plan for cookie purchases and who they were going to buy from and how much. One of the most amusing parts of this story is that several Girl Scouts got both parents to buy cookies from them.

Studies have shown that poor – or lack of – communication creates a multitude of issues within an organization (and families!). These include, but are not limited to:

  • Staff mistrust and low morale: Staff wants to be engaged and connected. When communication is lacking, Staff instead feels disconnected, resulting in lack of trust, low morale, and even absenteeism.
  • No communication reaps speculation: When an organization does not provide information and/or updates, then Staff and Clients begin to speculate. This can create havoc, resulting in disruption and potential loss of both Staff and Clients.
  • Mixed messages: When an organization tells Staff and Clients that it wants to create a culture of trust but is secretive, this creates confusion.
  • Lack of focus:When communication is not a priority for an organization, meetings are often inefficient and/or ineffective.
  • Lack of innovation: If Staff is unclear about the priorities and communication is lacking, this can compromise creativity and innovation.

Effective communication, on the other, supports operational effectiveness within an organization. It is demonstrated by:

  • Providing clarity on expectations
  • Defining priorities
  • Creating more efficiency among Team Members  
  • Encouraging a shared vision
  • Reducing fear of the unknown
  • Increasing trust among Staff and Customers
  • Improving collaboration
  • Empowering Staff

This quote summarizes it well:

“Excellent communication doesn’t just happen naturally. It is a product of process, skill, climate, relationship and hard work.” – Pat McMillan, author, CEO

Aldridge Kerr are experts at helping organizations build a strong, effective Communication Plan and methodology.

Consistency: A Sign of Operational Effectiveness

“Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.” – Dwayne Johnson

Aldridge Kerr is often asked what we see as one of the most common operational challenges organizations have. The answer? Lack of consistency. We joke that it is better to do something consistently ineffective and/or inefficient than to perform a task in multiple different ways.

Why is consistency so important to operational effectiveness? If an organization does not consider consistency important, it can impact many areas within the organization. We believe consistency is a characteristic for operational effectiveness and regularly discuss it in our insights and blogs, as exemplified in a previous Insight.

Consistency provides the following as it:

  • Reduces confusion for both Staff and Customers.
  • Sends clear messaging both internally and externally.
  • Allows for scalability as tasks and processes are performed using the same approach.
  • Encourages ease in training others, especially for new Staff.
  • Creates repeatable, sustainable processes as it standardizes how processes are performed.
  • Defines terminology for reference to systems, forms, requirements, methodologies supporting that clear messaging.
  • Characterizes operational effectiveness.

A routine review of Critical Processes supports the ability to establish consistent, clear methods for doing business. This creates operational effectiveness.

Theme for 2023: Signs of Operational Effectiveness

“Operational effectiveness and strategy are both essential to superior performance.”

– Michael Porter, Author, Harvard Professor

Each year, we select a theme with hints on that topic for discussion throughout the year. Our theme for this year is identifying the signs of an operationally effective organization.

We often ask our Clients if their organizations are operationally effective and typically the answer is either “Of course” or “I’m not sure.” How do you know if your organization is operating as intended? How do you know if your organization is effective? Are you sure your day-to-day tasks are aligning with the organization’s Mission and Goals? What is missing to achieve your operational excellence? These are the questions we will be exploring throughout this year.

As we begin, we need to first define “what is operational effectiveness?” Unfortunately, there is often confusion between “effectiveness” and “efficiency.” Dictionary.com defines efficiency as “performing or functioning in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort,” while defining effectiveness as “producing the intended or expected result.”

Often, an organization will concentrate on being efficient without realizing that they must first look at what is being done daily and align those tasks with the organization’s strategic goals (or “intended or expected result”). Understanding the goals and priorities of an organization is the foundation for effectiveness.

Our focus this year will be to more clearly outline the characteristics that are needed for an operationally effective organization. This will ultimately create an efficient organization as well.

Rinse, Repeat

Repeating the hints learned in 2022 …..

for effective execution of a project or initiative


“There is no harm in repeating a good thing.”

– Plato, ancient Greek philosopher

The phrase “rinse, repeat” indicates “an action or process that needs to be repeated.” It is used to indicate that a certain pattern of steps and/or actions will, inevitably, occur again. If we can provide any takeaway from this year’s insights, it is that we are hopeful that you have learned some hints to use in the effective execution of projects and/or initiatives.  

One value of identifying best practices is to be able to repeat those practices over and over again (i.e., “rinse, repeat”). As we reflect on our insights from this year, we hope you have learned – or been reminded of:

Executing any project requires building repeatable processes using the insights we provided throughout this year. Aldridge Kerr can help your organization with executing any of your projects.

Managing Risks and Project Management

“Plans are worthless. Planning is essential.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

As we continue our discussions on effective execution of any project and initiative, a critical element to success requires robust project management, as we have discussed previously. An element of a good project plan is directly related to mitigating risks that will delay or worse, sabotage the project’s execution.

Assessing risks throughout the life cycle of any project or initiative will increase the probability of a smooth execution. As we state in our website:

Every Organization, regardless of size, is susceptible to risks. Some risks are common, while others are industry specific. Unfortunately, risks cannot be eliminated. However, risks can be mitigated. Understanding those risks that create the highest exposure should be identified and steps taken to mitigate them.

So how can a Project Team incorporate risk mitigation into its project management methodology? Here are some hints to mitigate risks:

  • Consider the risk impact to any changes to the project plan
  • Manage scope creep, as we discussed in a recent insight as it can often have risk implications
  • Anticipate potential delays that will risk the project’s deliverable
  • Plan for Staffing conflicts that mitigate the risk to the project
  • Consider the possibility that management might impose staff or budget reductions

The execution of any project or initiative is directly related to effective project management and risk mitigation. Aldridge Kerr can help your organization avoid the pitfalls of inadequate planning.

Testing Before Execution

“Quality means doing it right even when no one is looking.”— Henry Ford

Testing review before implementation

It is so frustrating when a software solution becomes available…. whether a new solution or an upgrade…. and it just does not work as intended. Why does this happen so frequently? In many cases, this is due to lack or inadequate testing of the software solution.

An intricate step in the success of any project is to include testing to ensure whatever has been developed will meet the requirements defined by the End Users. Testing should be part of every project regardless of whether it is a software implementation, a new market launch, training, or any other deliverable. It ultimately produces the quality deliverable that is desired.

What should be considered when testing? Develop a Test Plan that defines:

  • The focus of the testing to ensure the deliverable is working as intended and meets the needs of the End User
  • Define what should be tested – examples:
  •  If it is a software solution (or upgrade), ensuring the software is working correctly
  •  If a new process, testing its effectiveness, efficiency, and repeatability
  •  If documentation, is it communicated clearly and is it easy to understand the document’s topic
  • If a market launch, does it meet the needs of the User?
  • Select Testers who are willing to do what it takes to validate the intended deliverable is working as intended
  • Determine the requirements for successful results from the testing and measure the testing to those requirements
  • Do not settle for “good enough” – this ultimately results in additional work effort

Incorporating testing into the overall project plan creates a more successful, high-quality implementation. Aldridge Kerr can help your organization define the requirements for a Test Plan to ensure a successful execution of your project.

Managing Change and Scope Creep

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.”

Steve Jobs, as quoted in Forbes

Scope and Change Management

“Change is hard” is an adage that seems to be universal. Most of us do not like change and resist it whenever possible.   

Ironically, change seems to be easy during the execution of a project. Considering changes are a major factor why projects are delayed and/or are not completed. During the life cycle of a project, there are two challenges that often arise:

  • Scope creep and/or
  • Poorly managing change

What is “scope creep?” Whenever a project adds to the defined project’s scope that will impact the project’s timeline, costs, deliverables, and resources without appropriate consideration to the changes impact and/or approvals, this results in scope creep. Unfortunately, scope creep is a common obstacle to a project’s successful and timely execution.

In order to mitigate scope creep, consider the following:

  • Ensure the project’s scope is clearly defined prior to starting the project
  • Define requirements of End Users prior to starting the projectas we discussed in last month’s insights
  • Establish expectations for deliverables prior to starting the project
  • Manage End Users’ desire to include additional tasks during the project that will result in scope creep
  • Avoid making any changes without going through a formal change management process
  • Focus on executing based on the existing project plan instead of adding additional tasks to it. Once the project is executed, then look at addressing those scope tasks identified.

Inevitably, there will be times when it is necessary to extend the scope of the project. In those cases, a defined change management process should be following that includes:

  • Establish a process for change requests prior to starting the project, as was discussed in a previous insight
  • Define the additional requirements before incorporating the requested changes into the project’s scope
  • Determine the implications of expanding the requirements to the scope of the project, as well as the implications if the scope does not change (in other words, define the risks for changing the scope versus not changing the scope)
  • Evaluate the impact of the change to the project’s cost, resources, timeline, and deliverables
  • Document the requirements, including the impact to the project to ensure there is clarity on change requests
  • Obtain appropriate approvals prior to making any changes to the project
  • Update the project plan if the change is approved

Aldridge Kerr can help your organization execute your projects. We are experienced project managers.

End User’s Input

“Everybody who’s been successful has gotten lots of help and input from many, many people.”

– Carol S. Dweck, Author of “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”

The Project Team was excited that the project was almost completed. Then, they were surprised when they presented it to the End Users and there were major concerns. Those who would be using the completed product had not been consulted throughout the Life Cycle of the project and were not happy with what would be delivered.

This is, unfortunately, a common scenario when executing a project or initiative. Executing a deliverable without End Users’ input can create unnecessary issues in the success of the completed project.

Involving the End Users throughout the project’s Life Cycle increases the probability of a successful execution. Why?

  • The results of the execution effort align with the business needs being addressed
  • Reduces wasted time, energy, and resources on rework created due to a deliverable that does not meet the End Users’ needs
  • Addresses the “they versus us” mentally that is caused whenever the Project Team and End Users are able to work together to achieve a unified goal
  • Encourages a more successful and timely execution of the project/initiative  
  • Creates ongoing collaboration between the Project Team and the End Users

When should the End Users be involved?

  • During the Requirements Phase of the project’s design
  • At critical milestones of the project
  • As Testers of the desired outcome

The success of any execution requires involvement by those who will benefit from its implementation. Aldridge Kerr can help your organization more clearly define the End Users’ requirements and needs. We use a proven facilitated methodology to define the requirements needed for a successful execution.

Keeping the Project Moving Forward

“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.” Conrad Hilton

Momentum: Merriam-Webster defines it as “strength or force gained by motion or by a series of events.” As we continue our discussions this year on effective execution, one of the challenges Organizations may face is a project not remaining focused or worse, stalling. The objective is to ensure that the project continues to move forward and gains momentum.

Here are several hints to keep your project moving forward:

  • Focus on the value the completed project will bring to the Organization: remember the end game and why the project is being done
  • Ensure all impacted Team Members, Stakeholders, and End Users are aware as to the “why” of the project: a project can stall when all involved are not focused on the project’s objective
  • Pay attention to the Project Plan’s due dates and dependencies as they drive the project’s success: the Project Plan is the roadmap to successful execution as was discussed in an earlier insight
  • Resolve the issues that may (and typically do) arise causing delays
  • Remain aware of risks that could occur and need to be mitigated
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate as defined within the Project’s Communication Plan

Don’t allow your project to stall, stay focused on the end game, and keep that momentum going by being mindful of these hints.

Communication and Execution

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

– George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright

Communication is key to successful execution

A Client once commented: “People are seemingly constantly asking how the project is progressing. We are never going to get this project done with the interruptions.”

My response was simple: “Are you providing regular updates on the status of the project?” My Client then asked: “Why would I do that?”

I smiled and said: “The list is long!” And, yes, the reasons for establishing consistent, regular communication on the status of a project is long, including but not limited to:

  • Provides all impacted on the progress of the project
  • Reduces confusion and speculation
  • Creates positive anticipation
  • Effectively manages expectations
  • Reduces the regular questions due to lack of communication
  • Strengthens the Project Team as members better understand the role each plays on the project
  • Educates End Users on the project’s impact prior to its completion
  • Presents progress to Stakeholders and the Steering Committee reducing concerns
  • Contributes to employee engagement

Establishing and maintaining frequent and consistent communication on the progress of a project or initiative better positions an Organization to effectively execute, as we have been discussing this year. By creating a Communication Plan as part of the overall project’s management, all those impact by the project are now invested in its progress. Do you need help creating a Communication Plan for your project/initiative? Aldridge Kerr are experienced Project Managers and can provide the project management framework to successfully execute your project.