It’s Easy Not to See This

Bringing Clarity to Your Organization

Trying something new takes a bit of courage. It takes even more courage when it seems like everyone else knows what to do or expect except you.

The other day I went for an eye exam and had to have my pupils dilated. I have never had my pupils dilated but I figured it wouldn’t be a big deal. Worst case I’ll just need some sunglasses to protect my enlarged pupils.

After my exam, I walked up to the checkout counter and the receptionist gave me a card for my next appointment. I looked at the card several times but I couldn’t read it. In fact, I couldn’t read anything on the counter. I started to freak out! What’s happening to me? Am I going blind?

I told the receptionist that I needed to see the doctor again…right away. She said, “What’s wrong, maybe I can help?” “No, I need the doctor,” I told her. “What should I tell the doctor is reason you need to see her?” I responded, “I can’t see. I’m going blind. I can see everything far away fine, but nothing up close.” She asked me, “Did you have your eyes dilated?” “Yes,” I responded. And then I was informed, “That’s completely normal. Your vision will return in a few hours.”

That would have been helpful information before they put the drops in my eyes. What was normal to the ophthalmologist was a completely unnerving experience for me.

This office probably dilates dozens of patients a day. The process had become routine and ordinary. I was another patient with another procedure. But the process was new to me.

I understand the importance of systems if you want to scale, but you must build into the system mechanisms that account for people at all stages of the continuum–people who are experiencing your product or service for the first time, and longtime customers.

Where in your industry might you be taking for granted that your patients have had their eyes dilated before?

Where are you assuming your customer already knows something that you know?

It’s easy to do because you deal with your product or service every day. But your customer doesn’t. Some are interacting with it for the very first time.

Every day people are jumping into the story of your company, business, non-profit, or church mid-stream. They don’t know the history, the evolution of the brand, the key players, your lingo, or even where the bathrooms are.

Where might you be assuming people know more than you think?

Have someone who isn’t familiar with your industry read over your literature, website copy, and email sequencing. Then ask them if they understand what their next step would be? Do they understand how to take the next step? If it’s unclear to you what their next step is it will certainly be invisible to your clients.

One of the things we look for at the church I lead is frequently asked questions. If we hear a question often enough it’s a good sign things are not as clear as we think. It cues us to work on a different communication strategy.

Recently as we moved into a new location we noticed that people were asking us where kids check-in was. To us it seemed like an obvious location in the lobby. The problem was every time we “saw” kids’ check-in was during the week with an empty lobby. When the weekend rolled around the lobby was packed and made it difficult for new people to tell which way to go. The solution was a sign that was located above all of the heads clearly pointing out check-in. Problem solved. We haven’t heard the question again.

Another thing we observed is that we haven’t been doing a good job connecting the dots from some of the events we are doing and our mission. We were basically just saying sign up for this or that without communicating how this or that helps us fulfill our mission. Internally we knew why we were doing these community service projects but we weren’t doing a good job of explaining the why behind the what.

Clarity isn’t something you check off a to-do list. Instead it requires regular evaluations. The longer you are in an organization the less you see things from a newbies’ perspective.

As a pastor, it’s easy to assume people know all kinds of things about the Bible when many people are checking out church for the first time. It’s easy to assume people know what prayer is or even how to pray, as well as what Christian terms mean and who various people are in the Bible. I can forget people are getting their eyes dilated for the very first time.

What if you took your promotional pieces, your sales presentation, your website, and asked someone not in your company to review it for clarity? Ask them to note every time something wasn’t clear or you used an industry term.  Then ask them if they can identify what the key distinctives are for your product or service. It’s probably not as clear as you think. See if they even understand why your differences matter in their world. (Why does a 2.3 GHz Quad Core matter over a 2.8 GHz Dual Core processor?)

Startups excel at this, but as any organization ages and you hand things off clarity can easily get diluted.

Explain the eye drops and help people see why your organization is really the best solution.

Most organizations aren’t intentionally withholding information so speak up if something isn’t clear. You’ll help the next person see a little clearer.