Orchestrating Effective Communication in the Digital Age

MMM coverI am both pleased and proud that Jim Horan, the creator of the One Page Business Plan®, wrote a Foreword for my new book, Making Meetings Matter: How Smart Leaders Orchestrate Powerful Conversations in the Digital Age (now due to be published on or about February 25).

In fact, I liked the Foreword so much that I am sharing it with all of you today. Here it is, in its entirety:


The nature of conversation and communication has changed dramatically. We find ourselves communicating faster, more frequently, over greater distances, and with many more people. Yet we seem to be less effective.

Why is that so? Because of technology every business is now doing business globally; there are almost no meaningful geographic boundaries any more. Yes, there are still a few basically local businesses – the barbershop, the nail salon, the local farmers market. But almost everybody else is now doing business regionally, nationally, and internationally.

We are also starting up businesses at a much faster rate. There is an expectation that a business can go from startup to scale-up in a much shorter period of time.

What that really means is that organizations must build consensus and make decisions rapidly. When we think about meetings and how central they are to doing business in this global economy, we must align individual ideas and reach group decisions much more quickly than we have in the past. If we don’t our competitors will beat us in the marketplace.

And yet the habits and patterns we have developed about verbal dialogue are still stuck somewhere in the 1950s, 60s, and/or 70s. We’ve made all kinds of advances in the way we communicate with written words. We can email, we can text, we can tweet; we’ve figured out to do that with fewer words and characters, and much more rapidly.

However, even with those advances we aren’t producing the level of understanding and agreement that our organizations need to be agile and effective. One senior executive I know recently told me he believes the biggest challenge his organization faces is not its competitors but the fact that his strategic vision is not well-understood within the company. On questioning he admitted that he had been unable to cascade the strategic vision and related action imperatives that were formulated in the board room throughout the organization.

In fact, every single senior executive I’ve spoken with in the last year has admitted to me that they struggle to cascade their visions, priorities, and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) throughout the organization. They know it’s important; they just can’t make it happen.

Aligning people and their efforts across organizational units, time zones, and continents remains the biggest challenge that senior executives face – in spite of all that wonderful technology we have access to. Being connected technically is only the beginning; connecting people’s hearts and minds is is another matter altogether.

My clients tell me that the power of the One Page Business Plan® is that it aligns ideas and helps to change behaviors quickly and clearly.

When I developed the One Page Business Plan® over 25 years ago my goal was to create that alignment and achieve those connections from one organizational unit to another. But the one-page plan succeeds best when it is accompanied by conversations that produce deep understanding of what those strategies and those KPIs mean on a day-to-day basis.

In my experience most organizational conversations are woefully inadequate at achieving that goal.

We need to bring business meetings into the digital age in the same way that we have reinvented business planning and written communication. The current form of corporate meetings is bent and broken; it just doesn’t fit the realities of the global, technology-rich world that we live in today.

This book is all about reinventing the business meeting. It offers advice and guidance for streamlining and strengthening all kinds of corporate conversations; but it focuses where it should, on the formal meetings that fill up over 50% of most managers’ calendars.

When the meetings I’m involved in are winding up, I like to ask the participants a simple question: “What if anything will you do differently as a result of the time we’ve spent together?” It’s a powerful way for me to learn whether I’ve been heard or understood.

I challenge you to ask that same question at the end of every meeting you participate in, and ask it of this book as well. What if anything will you do differently as a result of reading this book?

My deepest hope is that you will approach all your meetings from now on with a fresh perspective, with respect for the other participants, and with genuine curiosity about what insights and decisions the meeting will generate that could not have happened any other way. That’s the way to make your meetings matter.

Jim Horan
Founder and CEO
The One Page Business Plan Company

Note: This Foreword is from my forthcoming book, Making Meetings Matter: How Smart Leaders Orchestrate Powerful Conversations in the Digital Age. Please follow that link to visit the book’s website, where you can sign up for advance notes about the book, download other excerpts, connect with other readers, and contribute to my ongoing research about what makes for a good conversation.

Contact me today for a free 20-minute strategic conversation about how you can make your meetings and other corporate conversations both productive and popular. Please download this brief overview of my new service offering, Making Meetings Matter, to explore what’s possible.