Discover more from Data Gibberish
Boost Productivity with BLUF: The Communication Hack Every Data Pro Needs
Unlock Efficiency by Making Every Message Actionable
Hi there, after a long hiatus, I'm thrilled to be reconnecting with all of you here! My summer was packed with exciting projects, leaving little room for blogging. However, I’ve gleaned valuable insights to share with you. Although I'm not making any promises, there's something about the calmness of Wednesdays.
Are you struggling with writing engaging messages and getting answers to your questions quickly?
In the bustling world of data, your day is swamped with tasks. You juggle complex projects and need to converse with team members, stakeholders, and developers. You often need to communicate some information with those groups, and sometimes you're too rushed to carefully craft your words.
So what do you usually do?
You just dump everything into a long-winded Slack message and let them deal with it.
I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.
— Mark Twain
Your message becomes a daunting maze. Your Colleagues lose interest halfway, potentially missing the golden nugget at the end.
Don't worry. There's a simple and game-changing solution: making your messages concise, impactful, and actionable.
Today, you'll see examples of poorly crafted messages and learn why they hinder productivity. You'll also learn how to transform a lousy message into a good one and how that affects productivity.
I also have a small challenge for you at the end!
Picture yourself as the head of data engineering at PayTechFin, a fintech frontrunner. Your team is knee-deep in an exciting project: stock market data integration. That data is your magic key to fresh insights and strategic planning.
One sunny afternoon, while sipping your third cup of coffee, a Slack notification pops up. It's from Alex, a talented analytics engineer on your team:
Hey boss, I hope you're all doing well.
I wanted to share some updates on the data flow for our project. I was working on the ELT pipeline for our new stock market data. The extraction step works and we can load the data without any issues. However, the transformation is not without its challenges.
That's why I'm writing to you today. Unfortunately, the dbt transformation job for our stock market data integration project failed last night. It seems that one of the models is broken and needs to be fixed. I'm working on it right now, but it might take some time. I think it might be due to a mismatch in the data types.
Could you spare some time to help me confirm this and figure out the best way to resolve it?
Is the message clear and concise?
Does it get to the point quickly?
People often hide the main point, draping it in layers of context.
This trap is easy to fall into, especially when you're swimming in technical jargon and complex data. However, this approach can lead to confusion and inefficiency. It contradicts one of the fundamental pillars of DataOps.
Just think about it:
A recent study by Grammarly revealed a 7% yearly increase in stress levels attributed to poor communication!
Imagine receiving a lengthy message about data flow, only to find out that one of the dbt models is broken at the end. It's like finding out about a fire from a lecture on matchstick manufacturing!
You don't want your messaging to be like that. You want it to be clear, direct, and engaging. You want to grab your audience's attention. And you definitely don't want to bring more stress to people around you!
Enter the BLUF technique.
What is BLUF?
BLUF — Bottom Line Up Front — is a communication technique that presents conclusions and recommendations first, followed by justification or background information. It originated in the U.S. military and is now widely used in various fields, including business communication.
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The concept is straightforward: lead with crucial info and follow with details as necessary. This way, your audience knows what you're talking about right away and can decide whether they need to read further or not.
BLUF is especially useful for online communication platforms such as Slack or email, where people are bombarded with messages every day and have limited time and attention span.
Now, imagine if Alex had sent this message instead:
The dbt job for our stock market project failed. Suspected data type mismatch. Can you help? Thanks!
See how much better this message is?
It is like a breath of fresh air. It cuts straight to the chase: there's a problem with the dbt job. You immediately know what Alex needs help with, enabling you to jump into action.
Your BLUF Playbook
Using BLUF is not difficult but requires some practice and discipline.
Here are some tips on how to use it correctly in an online business environment:
Lead with your punchline: Start your message with the conclusion of the most critical information. For example: "The dbt job failed." or "I need your feedback on the new dashboard by tomorrow."
Elaborate briefly: Add context only if it's a game-changer. For example: "Possible data type mismatch in models." or "The client is expecting a demo on Friday."
Share relevant details: Only if they're genuinely crucial. Example: "I'm looking into it but could use some help." or "Please review the dashboard and let me know if you have any questions or suggestions."
Close with a CTA: Seal the deal by stating what you need. For example: "Could you please help me confirm and resolve this?." or "Please send me your feedback by 5 pm tomorrow.".
Use it everywhere: While BLUF originated in written communication, it can also be effectively used in conversations and interviews.
Voilà! You've just crafted a message that's straight-up dynamite.
Remember, the goal of BLUF is to make your message clear and actionable from the start. Don't make your audience work hard to figure out what you want them to do or why it matters. Give them the bottom line up front, then fill in the blanks as needed.
Why BLUF Matters?
At this point, you might be wondering:
Does it really make a difference in how I communicate?
Absolutely, yes! Using BLUF can make your communication way more efficient and spot-on.
72% of leaders say effective communication increases productivity.
And if that bit from Grammarly's survey is not enough, here are some more benefits of using BLUF:
It saves time and energy for both you and your audience. You don't have to spend a lot of time writing long and detailed messages, and your audience doesn't have to spend a lot of time reading and deciphering them.
It reduces confusion and misunderstanding. You don't have to worry about your message being misinterpreted or ignored; your audience doesn't have to worry about missing or forgetting important information.
It increases engagement and response. You don't have to wait for a long time to get a reply or a reaction, and your audience doesn't have to feel overwhelmed or bored by your message.
It improves trust and credibility. You don't have to risk losing your audience's interest or respect; your audience doesn't have to doubt your competence or professionalism.
So, BLUF not only sharpens your messages but also smooths out communication with your team and clients. It can help you achieve your goals faster and easier while also building stronger relationships.
BLUF in Action
Let's look at some examples of how you can use BLUF in different scenarios.
Scenario 1: Informing Your Team About a Change in Data Processing Methods
Instead of starting with the reasons for the change and the process involved, you could say:
We're switching to method Y for data processing from next week due to its improved efficiency. Here's what you need to know…
This way, your team gets the crucial information upfront and can prepare accordingly.
Scenario 2: Asking Your Client for Feedback on a Data Visualization
Instead of giving a lengthy introduction and background on the data visualization, you could say:
I've created a data visualization for the sales performance of your products. Please take a look and let me know what you think.
This way, your client knows what you want them to do and can focus on the data visualization.
Scenario 3: Reporting Your Findings from a Data Analysis
Instead of presenting all the details and steps of your data analysis, you could say:
I've analyzed the data from the customer survey and found that satisfaction levels are highest among female customers aged 25-34 who use product X. Here's how I did it…
This way, your audience knows the main takeaway from your data analysis and can follow along with your explanation if they are interested in the method you used.
Now, here's the challenge I promised in the beginning.
Imagine you need to tell your team to hold off on pushing code because of some heavy-duty code refactoring.
How would you BLUF this message in Slack?
Drop your answers in the comments or DM me by replying to this email.
To sum up, BLUF is a powerful tool for efficient communication. It helps you deliver your message effectively, ensuring that your audience understands the key points without having to sift through unnecessary details.
Remember, as data practitioners, our goal is not just to manage and analyze data but also to communicate our findings effectively. And that's where methods like BLUF come into play.
So, next time you're drafting a Slack message or an email, remember - BLUF it!