An Approach to Lean Communication


I got some great feedback on previous articles I wrote such as “5 Things You Should Not Forget When Inviting To A Meeting” and “Are You Communicating Constructively?” so I thought I should write another piece on communication and the optimization of meetings of any kind. I hope it also helps and adds value to you. This article is applicable both for meetings and one-on-one communication whether you’re in the office or with friends. The theory of communication doesn’t change.

What is Lean?

“Lean” is a trendy business term these days but I am actually quite fond of everything lean. So what does that even mean? A lean approach to something is the agile version of it’s original form. Getting from A to B faster or keeping a better overview on the way. In my own definition lean is the reduction of unnecessary complexity, reduction of chaotic input and an increase of transparency. You could even possibly consider this to be part of your emotional intelligence skills.

Naturally you can carry this out also on the level of human communication. You might find yourself in conversations and meetings where you feel that the goal of the communication was not achieved and that it costed you valuable time without the time being invested into a reasonable product or the solution to a problem but was an entirely wasteful exercise – or even worse… it costed time and the participants are more confused than they were prior to the communication. This could be applicable both in written and spoken communication afterall, so take care of it.


Emphasising lean communication means to be clear and direct while keeping the conversation polite and courteous. You need to communicate in a way that invites others to add value on top of the said statements and not enforce their isolated ideas at all costs. You’re building up the conversation based on appreciative inquiry.

How You Can Improve

  • For productive communication create an open environment and listen carefully
  • Speak for yourself and never for another person, start your sentences with “I” and not with a “you” like in an accusation
  • Make sure your communication is appreciative and inviting for further conversations and not blocking the communication
  • Be accurate on the communication when necessary (I need, I like, I want)

Listen carefully what you are saying and listen to what everybody else is saying. Think before you speak and consider the weight of your words before you speak. However if you already said something that you feel gave the wrong signal – don’t worry – explain that you used the wrong words, take it back and carefully rephrase it. It’s okay to make mistakes but do fix mistakes on the fly before frustration can even be developed.

On the other end, if you feel that you don’t understand a point or that you are unsure about something, just say so and ask the other person to try again transferring their thoughts to you. Make sure you are always on the same page.

Things You Need to Pay Attention To

  • Feelings and emotions are maybe not well expressed
  • If you fail to find the right words, body language might support the right message but maybe it will not
  • Don’t accidentally inhibit others or it will block the communication
  • Irony and unnecessary rhetorics can give a wrong signal that the others opinion or contribution is not appreciated

When the environment allows it or if you are not actively speaking you can also try capturing the sentences and write them down for analysis (e.g. what was said, how was it perceived, what are the resulting emotional changes).

When planning for a solution to a particular issue make sure to include yourself in the proposed action use future tense and the pronouns “we” and “us”. You want to solve a problem and not order people around for the sake of ordering people around. So don’t make it sound worse than you mean it by turning the cooperation into a command.

Don’t forget that this is not rude interaction, its rapid, clear and productive and afterall this is what makes it lean. It is however your responsibility to ensure that the clarity is not enforced at the cost of frustration. Reflect your exact thoughts and combine it with reason.

Final Pointers

  • You need the courage to be open and clear
  • Take emotions into account
  • Don’t forget to listen
  • Explain your thoughts fully not just with a punch that leaves room for interpretation
  • Reflect on what is being said … it’s not bad to think for a moment before you just keep talking
  • Be inviting for exchange of experiences and information
  • Make sure the meeting has a goal and everybody is aware of it


Lean communication can be greatly beneficial but I would suggest you to try this out first with people you know well and with people with a matching socialisation. If you don’t know what you are doing this is nothing you should bring into international or intercultural communication.

Thanks a lot for reading and like always I would love to hear your thoughts below in the comments section – try to be lean.

Further Reading

Photo credit: Nhi DangAsa AlgerPeter Hopper

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Christopher Isak
Christopher Isak
Hi there and thanks for reading my article! I'm Chris the founder of TechAcute. I write about technology news and share experiences from my life in the enterprise world. Drop by on Twitter and say 'hi' sometime. ;)
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