Some rules for effective business communication

Here are some basic rules of communication that could improve communication flow in a business. Some of them are fundamental “rules of engagement” that could set the overall tone for a company. Others are specific concepts for categorizing and measuring communication flow.

The idea is that the link between communication and action can be measured and reported. We do this for financial and product flows: Why not do it for our communication?

These ideas map to my concept of a new kind of email tool. Part of the idea requires that the sender classify every message as one of the following types: Information, Request, Order or Confirmation.

Rule 1: IROC. Classify all communications as one of the following:

  • Information: No reply required.
  • Request: Reply options are “Yes” or “No” (System asks “why?”). No response is considered “No”
  • Order: Reply options are “Accepted” or “Rejected” (System asks “why?”). System follows up aggressively when it gets no response.
  • Confirmation: Reply options are “Yes” and “No” (System asks “Why?)

Rule 2: Passive approval. “Yes” is assumed for all intra-company requests unless you hear “no” within 48 hours. “No” requires a rationale.

Rule 3: Brevity. Use short words. Use short sentences. Use short paragraphs. Be clear.

Rule 4: If it wasn’t said by email, it wasn’t said. “I told you on the phone last week,” “I told you in the hall” etc., are unacceptable.