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The words
we use

Client intimacy through language

José Augusto Pinto

Human communication is a fascinating theme, and perhaps even more so in the corporate world.
The multiplication of communication platforms and initiatives leave us surrounded by communication at work, and yet it’s hard to state that this quantity has translated into quality.

We all know that behind the façade of external and internal corporate communication lies a much more complex and complicated world, that the horizontal and vertical relations between roles, departments and teams don’t work as stated and intended but are a network of workarounds, informal relations, alliances and traditions.
Understanding this, identifying the problems and proposing solutions is a tremendous undertaking, one that only a solid methodology and a tremendous attention to communication and language make possible.

In our practice, any intervention in Organisational Design is always an intimate experience, where we delve deeply into the very essence of the company and together with the management team, explore themes of how work actually is done and how responsibilities and accountabilities are designed - and how this is carried out by people.
This is only attainable if we can find a common language with our clients, and by common language we mean a two-sided movement - adapting our terminology to make it understandable to our clients while simultaneously understanding not only what they say but what they actually mean.
For example, we cannot speak of “capability” without explaining what it means in our methodology, otherwise our clients may think we are talking about skills or experience.

There is no shortage of examples that illustrate this, but we will offer only a few that will certainly resonate with many.
Few words are more loaded and prone to misuse than “strategy” or “innovation”. What they actually are, what is to be expected from them, who is responsible for them, how they are deployed across the company - this is typically not well enough defined and therefore not clearly communicated.
Oftentimes we find roles that contain these words but only in form, not in substance, which can be misleading without further probing.

An German acquaintance leading a biotech start-up noticed this in a very compelling way.
When discussing the concept of “flow” with his younger colleagues, he realised a tremendous discrepancy of understanding.
As an athlete, he understood “flow” very much as we do in the context of the Requisite Organisation - an optimum state of working where the person’s capability meets the complexity of the task, without being neither overstretched nor underutilised.
In running, “flow” is the optimum pace allowing for covering long distances, just at the right amount of effort.
His younger colleagues, however, saw “flow” as a state of relaxation, akin to meditation - a completely different thing.

One could say then that our work is one of translation between the communication and the practice within our clients.
Perhaps the greatest merit of our Organisational Design intervention lies in having our clients realise by themselves where the misalignments are once they start looking at what lies behind the words they use.