Part 1 of this article: https://firstname.lastname@example.org/the-importance-of-clarity
The Importance of Clarity 2
Clarity in communications starts in one’s head. The value of giving over time and consideration to a work one is planning to execute, and so mulling things over, even sleeping on them, without any accompanying sense of haste or necessity, is much undervalued in a world where business is done on the hoof and demand drives by way of an urgent consumer desire for fulfilment of orders placed.
The idea that one is able to save time and work in the mid to longer term by shunting right up front a certain amount of mental legwork and precaution, sounds almost like a foreign language to many business persons; like a risk that is gambled on and which might not ‘pay off’.
When Woody in Toy Story 2 is being repaired and refurbished by the little hunched old guy with the hand lens and the watch repair toolkit and buffing equipment, and his customer, Al of Al’s Toy Barn, is breathing anxiously over his shoulders and willing him to go faster and to make it snappy – the little hunched old guy replies to Al; ‘You can’t rush art’. And this is a truth.
Conversely what is rushed and fretted over to get it done fast is too often a recipe for a need to backtrack and pick up at a point earlier whereabouts a shortcut or a stopgap was made or put in place so as to ‘save time’. But it has not been up to the task and has necessitated even more time taken backtracking than an unrushed job would have taken in the first place.
And will the customer pay for this ‘enforced error’ on your part; and for the diagnosis of it, and for the remedial work to fix it, and for the hours at $50 per hour to do all this? No, he will tell you it is your baby and you should take care of it and that you should foot the bill for it. And you have no argument to counter him with.
So clarity begins in one’s head. Get it clear in your mind first before you pick up a thread to sew or a code to write. Think it through first, in as far as you feel you are able to do so, look out for prospective pitfalls, and for things like optimum time management and deployment of your resources and crews. There is much that can be accomplished and much else that can be avoided simply by taking thought before one begins to act.
Here one is able to take a tip from those military personnel, who are not the greatest guys in the world maybe and maybe do a lot of harm; but they always and without fail never react and only respond to developments and situations in a war zone on the ground. The guys who are the strategic responders are the top brass. The guys who are the tactical responders are the officer class. Both sorts of forces guy are taught, selected, trained, until it is second nature, so that they never, never ever, act immediately in response to an adverse or even a lucky turn of events.
You hear the saying ‘Time is of the essence’ and this is a true saying; but not as one generally applies it. The forces guys will sit it out and consider on choices of action and think them through to likely prospective outcomes – scenarios as we call them in our civil language – even when there is a cut off point like a deadline or an ultimatum they will sit and ponder and debate so as to use best the time they have available for them to get into their heads the option which has the most desired likely outcome for them. In this way ‘Time is of the essence’ and not as a mad rush to stop a leak and so bring the whole working system crashing down.
‘In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions that a minute will reverse’
Military leaders and officers are very deliberately selected by buttonholing those guys who remain cool – under fire – under pressure to act – in emergencies. We don’t have the kinds of pressures they can face; but we can take a leaf from their book and learn from them about making a note of the time we have available and using it in the most efficient, effective and beneficial ways. And often the most efficient, effective and beneficial ways entail a good deal of time that is available being used by us to plan ahead and to try to pre-empt problems and errors.
So, once again, get it clear in your head your plan of action; choose it as the best choice from the options you have mustered. Once the way forward is mapped out, even say, skeletally, in your mind; then the writing down of requirement documents and of specifications and communications with customers are far less difficult to deal with.
One still has the oily hydra of language to handle and to try to subdue into allowing you to say what you want to say; but you do have a good idea about what it is you want to say, and so this means that that much more of your mental faculties are available and freed–up to be able to tackle intently this hydra of language and expression. For certain, when one does not know what one desires to say, and does not have a sketched out plan of action at least in germ in one’s mind, then one’s documentation is inevitably going to suffer and suffer badly.
Your plan or plans do not have to be rock solid and locked into a predetermined universe; there is always room for amendment and elaboration or revision up the road. If a person, even a military man, could see the future in fine detail it would be inhuman and unnatural. The old saying is:
‘There’s many a slip
Between the cup and the lip’
And so just as nothing written down is able exactly and absolutely to convey the whole shooting match of what one wanted to say, let alone what has been written being able exactly and fully to be representative of works as they are planned and envisaged to be done, nor yet as they are eventually done; likewise nothing ever transpires quite exactly as it is premeditated, or even as it was thought best to transpire at that time when one was without the benefit of hindsight.
These facts mean that one must not be afraid to modify, adjust, alter, add, take away, reconfigure etc etc, at any time; not only during actual building of works but also in one’s documentation and in the words one uses to write it.
The Renaissance English poet Edmund Spenser devoted the last Cantos (aptly uncompleted) of his epic ‘The Faerie Queene’ to the topic of ‘Mutabilitie’ whom he personifies as a female; saying of her:
‘For, she the face of earthly things so changed,
That all which Nature had establisht first
In good estate, and in meet order ranged,
She did pervert, and all their statutes burst:
And all the worlds faire frame (which none yet durst
Of Gods or men to alter or misguide)
She alter’d quite, and made them all accurst
That God had blest; and did at first prouide
In that still happy state for euer to abide’
And so for mere mortals like us to get things 95%+ well-executed, whether in writing or in the actual building, is work well done, and perhaps the best to be hoped for in such a mutable world as ours?
The original article is located at our anomalist desgin blog: http://blog.anomalistdesign.com/the-importance-of-clarity-2/
You can also find this article at my linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/importance-clarity-2-matthew-raymer?trk=mp-reader-card