I remember being in the 3rd grade and playing the telephone game in the library. Our entire class would sit in one long line from one side of the building to the other. Our librarian would think of a statement and start the game. You played this game, too, I’m sure. And what was the best part? It was listening to the jumbled, inaudible words (if you can call them that) that came out of someone’s mouth halfway down the line. We compared that to what our librarian started with…and we all burst out laughing!

The same happened to me once after a kick-off meeting with an implementation team. We had hired a software company. We worked with the sales staff through the entire process until one fateful day we had our kick-off with the implementation team. Sure enough, after the first meeting, we burst out laughing! Why? Because what we were sold and what was delivered had about as much in common as what my old librarian had said and the gobbledygook at the end of the telephone game. Sound familiar?

If you’ve been the customer or the service provider in this situation, it’s frustrating. We’ve seen this most recently with agencies and software companies. Even in the smallest companies, silos still exist (shocker) between sales and delivery. And if we use the example of the telephone game, we can easily identify the problem. This post isn’t about communication entirely, however, it’s also about the handoff.  Some say communication is key…and the handoff is key! Your team needs to manage both.

In The Secret to Ensuring Follow-Through, Peter Bregman suggests one solution to resolving this issue—checklists! As an avid to-do-lister myself, I couldn’t agree more. The checklist is a step up from a to-do list because it creates organizational process (even in its most basic form). That’s one of the reasons that The Whale Hunters Process works—we help companies build the bridge between what’s sold and delivered through process.  Communication is great and can always be improved. Process on the other hand can be standardized, written down, charted out, measured and taught without the risk of mis-interpretation.

In Mr. Bregman’s article, he recommends a similar handoff checklist as a way to reduce mistakes and increase trust within an organization. You no longer need to be on the offensive, assuming that no one else understands the issue or priorities. With a standard checklist or process, everyone is on the same page. Check out this tool called See Through the FOG on our website to help your team clarify jumbled statements and turn them into important knowledge.

No more games of telephone.


  • Eric says:

    Nice post! …and I remember that game well. I’ve been liking the idea of checklists for a while now. I think I’m gonna start putting them to use in the name of being more efficient! Thanks Lindsay!

  • Great post Lindsay, I couldn’t agree more a check list and on going communication definitely helps reduce the chances of bad telephone calls!

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