"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." - George Bernard Shaw
How a company communicates with employees, shareholders, the community, etc., is extremely important. The language used and its presentation can get the point across effectively or not at all. Proper communication leads people. Improper communication fools everyone into “the illusion that [communication] has taken place.” Nothing gets across with poor communication.
The best intelligent fanatic led organizations have the ability to effectively communicate. Les Schwab is a superb example. Les Schwab Tire Centers’ employee code of conduct demonstrates superior communication. CodeofBusinessConductLes.pdf (4.5 MB)
To contrast, I’ll compare Les Schwab with the exact worst example, Enron’s Enron Code Of Ethics.pdf (3.8 MB).
Les Schwab’s code of conduct is simple. The language is accessible. It is to the point and understandable by the target demographic - every employee.
Here is an example of values:
In contrast, Enron’s language is not accessible to all employees. Their value statement is unclear. Their code of ethics is a perfect example of what Herb Kelleher referred to as bureaucratese.
Here is an example of the language:
If you want to get someone to read something, the shorter the better. There are only 2,331 words found in Les Schwab’s code of conduct. Enron: 16,532. More is not better in this case.
The reason why Les Schwab can get away with fewer words is because their words are more powerful. Les Schwab is not trying to cover their back with the law, they are getting their message across. Also, to value doing the right thing encompasses a lot. When the employee doesn’t know, they should report their concern. The “How to report a concern” is listed at the beginning and the end of the document. Les Schwab makes it easy to report a concern by giving employees multiple avenues to make a report.
Enron is the opposite. The executives had no clear their true vision, so they needed many more words to describe it. To report a concern is buried at the end of Enron’s 64 page document. The first method of reporting that Enron highlighted is sending a letter by mail.
Les Schwab’s document is 13 pages long. The presentation is pleasing to the eye and read in a few minutes. I can guarantee you that every Les Schwab employee has read the document, understood it and could recite back the main points.
At 64 pages, the Enron document takes more than an hour to read. To understand it would take much longer. It’s not clear. I doubt any Enron employee fully read the document nor could clearly describe Enron’s values or any other part of the document. The only person who fully read and understood it was Enron’s corporate lawyers.
Leaders properly communicate to their people. As Les Schwab’s code of conduct shows: simple, short, and properly presented communication is effective. Enron shows that obfuscation of communication gives the illusion of getting a message across. You can imagine that a Les Schwab employee is more likely to be loyal to the company that understands them - they speak in the same language - then a once Enron employee who did not care to understand them.
When a company and their leadership does not communicate well, stay far, far away. They are likely hiding something.
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