How well the organization you lead communicates is a measure of the cardiovascular fitness of your organization. Communication allows or prevents an organization to sustain its performance. An organization that communicates well has the ability to respond to changes and sustain their performance. They are able to increase intensity, speed up when needed, and grind it out through a tough time such as climbing a hill. They are in for the long haul. Why, because all the systems work well together. Everyone knows where they are going, why they are going there, and if they are on track. They have an expectation of the future.

Organizations that communicate poorly are the converse. Unable to work together to respond and adjust to challenges. Why, because they don’t know where they are going and why.

In the organization you lead, who do you think has the best concept of what clear communication is? Those at the top or the bottom?

The concept of clear communication is completely understood by everyone at the lower end of an organization. Just ask. When the bottom rung of an organization is left confused by the message, it generates discontent and criticism of the leadership. Statements such as “What they should have done is” or “They don’t know how this affects us” are common refrains. Confused and frustrated members of the team tire easily. Their energy, mostly mental, is wasted on nonproductive activities. They are inefficient.

Why would you be criticized as being unable to communicate clearly throughout your organization? In my opinion there are three reasons. First, failure to employ clear, concise, and concrete language that translates in to actions. Second, you suffer from the “The Curse of Knowledge”. Lastly, you do not ask for feedback.


Clear, concise, and concrete language such as; “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” After JFK said this an entire nation knew the objective. What if he said something such as: “I believe this nation should outperform the competition in space endeavors.” That certainly leaves the goal open to interpretation.

How did you state your last most important message to your team?

Knowing too Much

The “Curse of Knowledge” is knowing so much about something that you cannot put yourself in the shoes of another who does not have a clue. What you understand and how you understand it, can be completely foreign to others. Your explanation is crystal clear and makes perfect sense – to you. Others are totally befuddled; how can that be? Does everyone really need to know every detail that you do on a topic? Using too much detail or the wrong language may not give your team what they need.

One day a four-year-old comes in from the backyard playing with his friend Bobby and asks “Mom where did I come from?” The mother figured well this the time to introduce her young son to the how babies are made. The mother very seriously spends 15 minutes giving her best “biology for a four-year-old” lesson. When she is done, she leans back and asks, do you have any questions? He answers, “No, I wanted to know because Bobby said he came from New York” Sometimes knowing too much is a curse.

Know what your audience needs! You have all the background and know what you are trying to communicate. It makes perfect sense to you. Others in the organization may have no idea what you are trying to convey.

Was the Message Accurately Received?

Lastly, communication is a two-way process. If the message is not received accurately: “You have a failure to communicate.”


You must determine if the message landed properly by getting feedback from every corner and level. Just because it was said, does not mean it was heard. If the received message was not what was sent, go back to step number one: Develop the message in clear, concise, and concrete language and send it again.


Good communication takes continuous work, every hour of every day. Consistent messaging that is understood throughout the organization builds what General Stanley McCrystal in his book Team of Teams calls shared consciousness; levels of communication, transparency, and information sharing that allows all members to understand and embrace the mission.

Your cardio fitness is how well your heart, lungs, and organs consume, transport, and use oxygen. A high level of fitness means all those organs work together efficiently. Good communication allows all the areas of your organization to work together efficiently.

What have recent events told you about the cardio fitness of your organization. How can you get the feedback you need to measure your fitness?

Want to know more about organizational fitness? Read the first blog post; “What is Organizational Fitness?”.