Did Microsoft’s new CEO hit the mark?

We can’t be quite sure what Satya Nadella said in the 3000 word memo sent to all Microsoft employees outlining the company vision and values. It may have been the best piece of internal communications possible. But in any context it would be interesting to see how it stacks up against the eleven words that Bill Gates used to do the same job a decade or two ago. I suspect that it wouldn’t be quite so memorable or compelling as ‘To put a computer on every desk and in every home’.

What makes a good piece of communication? Memorable? Punchy? Hard-hitting? Meaningful? Yes, of course these are all true. But, the best communication, the stuff that we remember works because it begins with what’s important to us, the person receiving the information, and the way that we consume knowledge, rather than the content that the communicator wants to send.

Does a 3000 word memo do that job, well yes, it probably does, for some people. But for others it more likely felt like a report to the board. And who wants to read those in their spare time?
In a world where we the majority consume information in bite-sized chunks, rapidly, between other important jobs and life events, it may be better to reflect that in the way that messages are communicated.

Segment the groups of people you need to build a dialogue with. Identify what’s important to them and personalize your message as much as you can. Vary your method too – video, podcast, hangout, town-hall meeting or even team level de-briefs are probably more effective, more memorable and more compelling than a single all-points bulletin. They’re also likely to take you less time to produce.

If the aim is to truly motivate people to work towards the company vision, to be more productive, or to signal a change in direction, then the message has to begin with ‘What do you need to know?’ rather than ‘What do I want to tell you?’ It’s the human face of business.

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