CASE STUDY 

HOW ORGANIZATIONS DRIVE TOWARD EXCELLENCE

This is a universal study of all organizations that strive toward excellence through successful leadership. What’s needed is a powerful, transformational experience that unleashes peoples' potential to be the dynamic communicators they envision themselves to be: in control and having a good time getting things done in the spirit of shared cooperation and excellence. To reach this state of finding a clear, useful voice, employees at all levels must unlearn much of what they’ve been taught and undo much of what they do.

Brief

The City of Richfield, an innovated suburb of Minneapolis / St. Paul, Minnesota, prides itself on delivering the highest quality of life for its community. The City’s mission is to constantly strive to use “innovative and cutting-edge solutions” to solve problems of governance by “providing the most experienced and trained personnel” possible.

 Adapted from  Writing to Get Things Done®  (WGTD) seminar

Adapted from Writing to Get Things Done® (WGTD) seminar

Illustration

 Click the graphic to see it full screen.

Click the graphic to see it full screen.

This illustrates the challenges inherent in the narrative story writing style taught in schools. Although the difference between these two examples is stark, it is by no means unusual. It is, in fact, universal in all organizations around the world. People unwittingly paragraph each other into confusion to the point where readers stop reading.

This exhibit also illustrates the difference between a pre-seminar writing sample and the writing skills taught in WGTD: framing content for busy readers and complying with the Federal Plain Language Guidelines mandated by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton for state, county and city governments.

Two-Pronged Solution

The City solved its communication challenge in two ways:

  1. by educating its own employees
  2. by educating its contractors’ employees.

Prong One: Educating City Employees. Since 1990 the City of Richfield has used Writing to Get Things Done® (WGTD) to create a critical mass of city employees who are writing clear, easy-to-read internal and external communications.

The focus for the seminar is on writing those kinds of documents that are the crux of running the business of municipalities successfully:

  • emails to residents
  • recommendations to city council members
  • work documents, RFPs and SOWs to contractors
  • emails to city project applicants
  • emails between supervisors, colleagues, and subordinates
  • recommendations to management
  • meeting minutes
  • research reports
  • updates
  • policy and procedures

The results of this training made it clear that the emails, proposals, technical reports, engineering updates, etc. of the City’s consulting contractors were in equally dire need of improvement.

Prong Two: Educating Contractors’ Employees. The City of Richfield found its own communications improving to such an extent that it required the same from its consultants, the companies hired to work on City engineering projects. The City’s Terms of Consultant Agreement states, “All consultant staff identified to provide services to the City will be required to complete a Writing to Get Things Done® (WGTD) writing seminar offered by Berry Writing Group at their own cost.”

As a result, many of the major engineering companies who’ve won bids in the City's consultant pool have complied with this mandate by creating a critical mass of their own employees who are writing to get things done. The City’s most important contractors have conducted multiple WGTD seminars at their office locations with great success.

  • Advance Engineering & Environmental Services at offices located in Maple Grove, Grand Forks, Fargo, and Bismarck.
  • Short Elliot Henderickson at offices located in St. Paul, St. Cloud, Delafield, and Denver.
  • WSB & Associates at its corporate office in Golden Valley.
  • Bolton and Menk at its office in Burnsville.

Conclusion

Writing to Get Things Done® (WGTD) helped the professionals at the City of Richfield and its consulting contractors become better leaders by becoming better communicators. Delivering good news or bad is situational. Successful leaders navigate the circumstances with confidence, offering clear compelling explanations that earn respect and get things done. 

“Writing to Get Things Done revolutionized the way we communicate internally, with our colleagues, and to our stakeholders, saving us time and providing a more effective way to get our messages and needs across. What I learned during the workshop I was able to put into practice immediately and began seeing more responsive results from day one. Best course I have taken in a very long time.
— Kristin Asher, Director of Public Works, City of Richfield

Background of WGTD in Its Preparation to Solve Communication Problems

The Writing to Get Things Done® (WGTD) program and the online course have honed its success for helping the City of Richfield’s drive toward excellence through its history of helping many other metro municipalities improve the clarity of their communications. Since the 1990’s, these have included the city governments of Bloomington, Brooklyn Park, Chrystal, Eden Prairie, Edina, Minneapolis, and St. Paul.

Also, over the past 15 years The Minnesota Chapter of the American Public Works Association, the primary source of professional consulting expertise for city public work projects, has offered Writing to Get Things Done® (WGTD) numerous times, with great results, as it raises the effective communication for successful leadership of its members.

Finally, the breadth and dept of WGTD has been perfected by the feedback of over 100,000 participants from Fortune 500 companies.

We would love to help your company create the same success!

What You Can Do to Help Your Organization Be More Successful

Help your leaders communicate more successfully by unlearning much of what they've been taught and undoing much of what they do, such as: 

  • Burying what they want to get done in narrative academic paragraphs.
  • Using the Rambling Prose process as they write.
  • Beginning emails with the starting blocks of Rambling Prose, such as:
    • "Enclosed please find…."
    • "The purpose of this email is to...."
    • "Per your email...."
    • “In confirmation of our phone call.…”
  • Ending emails with the exit strategy of Rambling Prose, such as:
    • "Your prompt attention to this matter is greatly appreciated."
    • “Please respond at your earliest convenience."
    • “Thank you in advance for your cooperation.”
    • "If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me."

Improve the Communication of your Organization by using the Writing to Get Things Done® (WGTD) online course. Or call to talk with us.

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“WGTD provided the top 28 drivers of my Central Region Leadership Team with a clear process to get results. From a simple process comes clear thinking, clear writing and clear results. Excellent training!”—Tracy L. Ekola, PE, Vice President, SEH
 

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“In 2010, with an engineering staff of 150 professionals, I was hoping to improve our communication skills to better serve our clients’ needs and create an edge with our competition. WGTD surpassed our expectations. We still have an item on our department meeting agenda for someone to give a Writing to Get Things Done example!”—Pete Willenbring, PE, Vice President, WSB & Associates
 

About Stan

Since completing his graduate degree from Yale University, Stan Berry has devoted over 3 decades to improving the productivity of tens of thousands of business and government professionals with his Executive Communication Program. Stan’s unique and energetic approach to teaching makes the classes engaging and fun. Stan has also authored five books on business writing that he uses in his seminars.

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