Big hole in the road!

We know that good communication is essential in all aspects of life. And many of us also recognise that it’s pretty hard to achieve. It’s so easy to deliver too much communication in an attempt to address criticism for not communicating enough.

hole in the road

On my drive to work I have recently been held up at temporary traffic lights whilst an exciting new project for Newcastle’s East End is nearing completion. But it’s ok. The week before the lights arrived there was a sign declaring “Work starts here on 19th Sept for 1 week”, and sure enough they did – bang on cue, exactly as promised. Brilliant!

Now, many years ago I interviewed a businessman for a video programme I was making about his entry in the North East Business Executive of the Year awards. Actually I interviewed at least a dozen altogether, but this chap’s answer to my question about his secret to business success has remained with me. His personal moto was to always do what you say you are going to. Simple really.

Clearly the contractors digging up the major commuter route in and out of Newcastle must have been to the same Communications Coach. All of which got me wondering when, on the 26th September, 1 week later, the road-works were still in place, including the once exemplary sign. And when 2 weeks later the situation remained the delays had become inconvenient and the information blatantly wrong!

Now I appreciate that digging holes in roads isn’t my area of expertise, but I can see how things may not always go according to plan. I do sympathise with the chief hole digger who presumably hasn’t been having a great time on this project. I am certain that he (or she) has been working tirelessly on ways to speed up the project and get the road fully open again. I know this because half way through week 3 of this epic excavation the sign was changed. Oh yes, the original sign was updated to read “Work starts here on 19th Sept for 3 weeks”. No untidy crossing out of the 1, or sticking an obvious 3 over the 1 and forgetting to pluralise the week. No, this is a beautifully produced replacement which has seamlessly replaced the original. However, can this information be trusted? Is it a reasonable estimate of the time remaining for the hole? Will the extra 4 days (including Saturday and Sunday which are traditionally quiet days in the holes in roads industry) that this new sign now provides for actually be enough to get the job finished? Personally I am sceptical. More to the point is the missed opportunity that the new sign presented. It’s on a commuter route and I’ll bet that I’m not the only person to notice what’s been going on. We sit waiting for the green light every day with time to gaze around and think. How much better would an apology have been with a simple explanation. “Road-works anticipated to be completed by 14th October. Apologies for the delay”.

And of course, by over-estimating in the first place the money spent producing the second sign could have been saved altogether or spent producing another proud acclimation “Work completed 2 weeks ahead of schedule. Thank you for your patience”

Good communication in my opinion is honest communication. Communication that you can stand up and confidently deliver, in the knowledge that you are absolutely going to do exactly what you have said you will do. Now, where did I leave my shovel?