The First Line Manager: A Piece of Pencil on a Piece of Paper

I know as a first line manager communication is the key to our success. It has always been so.In the past communication was more difficult.

Anciently, the important codes were carved into stone, for instance, the Code of Hammurabi, and the Ten Commandants. Other communication was relayed mouth to ear, it was just too time consuming and costly to put every communication in stone. Then someone invented the stylus and clay tablets, more things of value could be recorded. Communication was still time consuming and costly. When archeologist deciphered the cuneiform clay tables they found most were lists of accounting transactions. Why not, the value of having a listing of one’s possessions is important. As time progressed more innovation permitted more information to be in writing. But even so, communication was a timely and costly enterprise. Take for instance the Dead Sea Scrolls, only the vowels of words were written, you had to remember the consonants. What happened in the last twenty years changed the cost of our communication to almost zero.

In the latter part of the 1990’s, my father’s corporate headquarters production accounting head contacted my father. He wanted Dad’s help. The corporation was transposing the old hand written ledgers to computers. They did not understand some of the short hand abbreviations. They knew dad knew these codes. It made my dad feel good; to think that after all these years he was needed. He could not help them he was too old to drive to the headquarters.

This brings us to today. Written communication is everywhere. Most young people would rather text message than phone their friends. Corporate communication is almost as invasive. I get emails from departments and have no need for the information; somehow I got on their email distribution list. Some emails I get are so distorted I have to scroll down several pages to figure out the topic. This reminds me of the game we used to play as children, where we would whisper a message in some one’s ear and so forth until it got to the last person. When this person said the message out loud it was nothing like the original statement. Some emails are so sloppily written they make no sense, or I have to phone the sender to determine what they want from me. Most of all I hate the “reply to all” key. Today, written communication is too cheap, it has become almost worthless.

To the point, front line supervisors need to know how to write communications without ambiguity. This is what my seventh grade teacher, Ms. A. B. Stanley, told me years ago, “Writing is meant to be simple and to the point.” I struggled with written communication then, and I do today. Lately, I have read several books on the art of written communication. I strive to get to the point quickly and close just a quickly. I actually sometimes use the title line for my email message; employees have told me this is a violation of email etiquette. What the heck, when “LOL” does not mean “Lots of Love”; but “Laughing Out Loud”, so much for email etiquette.

I type most complicated documents in Word first. This way I can take my time to make sure I am communicating without ambiguity. I can run spell and grammar check. Then, I email the document.

I still think, sometimes, the best communication is, “a piece of pencil on a piece of paper.”

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About OJ

I am a retired first line manager with over 40 years of experience. In operations management, accounting management, and central operations management. It is my wish to convey some of the experiences I have learned form over the years in the articles on my site.
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