Jo Umberger

Facilitating the process of key players achieving measurable, mission-critical results in leadership, communication, engagement, people skills/People Side of Lean, productivity, and teamwork.

What if the decision-makers don’t understand your technical message?

What if you are trying to get funding for a highly-technical concept and the decision-makers’ expertise is not in your field? What if they don’t have the background to fully understand the value of your proposition?

A group of manufacturing site leaders and global team leaders, mostly engineers, desperately needed to deliver a report to non-engineers in order to continue their project. Each of the 12 team members had created up to 8 slides and each slide was complex, containing a long list of bullets, multiple small charts with no explanations, or job-specific abbreviations. The goal was to deliver a clear, concise report of approximately 20 slides that would convince those with the purse strings to fund the next phase of the project in order to yield a greater ROI for the organization.

You could say they needed a gap analysis as well as the epoxy.

In a profession chock-o-block with acronyms, technical jargon, and euphemisms, great translation is the key to clear, concise, accurately conveyed communication.

Here are several ideas you can use to ensure that your intended message is sent and received as intended. These ideas work well when creating slides, too.

1. Write the message as if you were saying it using your regular terminology. Then edit it by including explanations in simple terms so anyone can understand . . . especially those who don't fathom your particular vernacular.  :)

3. Create an introduction by using a sentence or two to get their attention.  Ask yourself, "Why do they want or need to know this information?" Focus on What’s In It For Them.

4. Explain the concept in story form, complete with beginning, middle and end. Use pictures. When using graphs, ensure they are simple to follow. Write 2-3 word explanations and use arrows to point them to the parts of the graph they detail.

5. Prepare a conclusion based on the purpose of your presentation. If it is to inform, summarize your concept in a sentence or two. If the purpose is to motivate people to take action, state what you want them to do, indicating What’s In It For Them. (On a slide, make it a short sentence at the bottom of the slide.)

6. Never use bullets on slides!

7. When giving the presentation in-person, ask them to check your communication by summarizing what they heard. It is essential for you to own the process, including any misunderstanding on their part. Take responsibility and let them know you do.

What happens if your highly analytical messages aren’t communicated in such a way that your non-technical listeners/readers fully grasp their value? Unfortunately this situation usually does not turn out to your or the organization’s advantage.

When you translate your tech-talk so everyone understands, you will be in a much better position for the hearer to buy into your message and take the action you need!

Need help communicating your message? I've been translating tech-talk for over 25 years.  Drop me a line at

Copyright Umberger Development Partners Inc., 2016. All rights reserved.


7 steps to greater quality decision-making based on the latest intel

What would be the expected impact on decision-making if additional, current, quality intel were available? Would the team be more confident that the best decision was made? Could this level of intel lead to desired results more quickly?

You may have heard about the manufacturing floor employee whose machine stopped working. He followed protocol and called his Supervisor when he couldn’t determine the cause. After everyone up the chain had been called in but no resolution had been found, the company resorted to an unusual measure. The employee who presented the problem was asked what he thought the problem was. “The machine’s not level,” he replied. To say the level of frustration among the leaders was high is certainly an understatement.. “Why did you let us go to all this trouble when you knew the problem all along?” His answer was simple but profound. “You told me to always go to my supervisor when there’s a problem. And no one asked me.”

Responsibilities of the Managers, Directors, VPs, and the C-Suite are so extensive, no one can expect any one of them to know every detail of what’s happening on the floor, in the field, or in the back office. Yet one of their most important tasks is to create Strategic Plans, which begins with an intense look at the details of the current situation.

Consider who has the real-time, highest quality information on how things are operating in these areas. Employees, Front Line Leaders, sales teams, and admin support are naturally in touch with the daily operations. In fact, they are making decisions daily that affect efficiency, effectiveness, safety, quality, waste, and top line income.

Tapping into the braintrust of the employee base before making key decisions that affect daily operations can yield strategy-altering information. Whether you are engaged in high level strategic planning or simply need a problem solved, you may want to try 1 or more of these 7 strategies.

  1. Lay out the issue, set the boundaries, and task employees with solving the problem.

  2. Take “management by walking around” to the next level by asking individual employees to share their best practices and their greatest challenges to you in their environment.

  3. Facilitate the process of site employees’ determining the values by which decisions will be made. This requires both a level of education as well as level-setting expectations of how final decisions about the value statements will be made and executed.

  4. Conduct focus groups that are representative of the demographics and levels of engagement at each site to learn the greatest areas of concern and other significant information.

  5. Provide group coaching for members of teams that are not achieving their performance goals to learn root causes.

  6. Provide high potential leaders with individual coaching to strengthen their ability to use the influence they already have with team mates.

  7. Freely praise those who take engagement to the next step, even if the outcomes need to improve.

When these and other employee engagement strategies are ingrained into the culture -- implemented on a regular basis and not simply as an experiment to be abandoned in a few months --  watch for 3 desirable outcomes.

1. Better quality decisions can be made because better intel is available.

2. Employees are more likely to take greater ownership over their work.

3. The top line is likely to increase.

If you want to know more about how these ideas have been put into practice at other organizations like yours, contact me at or 214-697-0242.


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Copyright © 2018 Jo Umberger & Umberger Development Partners, Inc.

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