What two simple models combine for razor-sharp business communications?
In most organisations, top-down communication is essential. Leaders don’t want answers and may choose to dig into details.
How do you know where to start researching a perplexing and often complex business problem? Let’s look at two models to help you research and present your findings.
Are you communicating an idea/argument?
Think of a triangle or pyramid. Start with a critical message at the apex.
Consider your idea as a visual pyramid. Your general conclusion goes at the top. The granular details supporting your argument go at the bottom.
The triangle concept is from Barbara Minto, an ex-McKinsey Consultant. Minto coined the term “Pyramid Principle”. The Pyramid Principle is a model for thinking about, unpacking and organising information and thoughts. This model helps you respond to and organise one’s response to a problem.
Follow with several main arguments supporting this key message.
Start with the answer, then add supporting reasons, ideally in lists of 3, followed by details. Design your presentation/communication for easy tailoring towards different audiences.
For instance, prepare one set of communication and keep it on the level of “key message”. These main arguments are for executives.
Examine every slide or sentence with one lens. This lens? The “so what?” lens. So you’ve made a statement here… so what? Don’t describe raw stats or comments — what does it mean for the reader?
Extend your communication with details for peers. Also, other analytical audiences who delight in the in-the-weeds stuff.
Are you researching your idea/argument?
Organising and presenting this information follows this triangle or pyramid approach. Yet should you follow the same direction when researching?
No. An efficient research approach may invert the method recommended for presenting the information.
Why didn’t this article start with how your research first? After all, doesn’t research precede presentation? Yes — but you may also want to create a “skeleton” or broad framework of what you want to present before researching.
You may want to follow the same approach movies or fiction books use when researching. SCQA.
SCQA is an acronym for Situation, Complication, Question and Answer.
Situation. Describe the immediate problem and state points the audience may already know.
Complication. Explain the relevance and context of the discussion.
Question. What actions does Company X need to take to find its footing in unplanned stops?”
Answer. Be as explicit and straightforward as you can.