Military Skills Series: Effective Communication in Consulting 

By Greencastle Consulting

At Greencastle, our success is directly attributable to the highly skilled veterans that we employ. Military service has set the foundation for many of the skills our consultants leverage in support of critical initiatives for our clients.  This series is focused on highlighting those skills and how veterans can use them to foster a culture of success as consultants.

Effective Communication in Consulting

Effective communication is a non-negotiable in both civilian workplaces and the military. It’s uniquely critical in the world of consulting where the success or failure of a project can often rely on how well it’s communicated to internal and external stakeholders.  

But what is effective communication? Let’s talk about two key elements of military communication that can be directly applied to the world of consulting.  

Bottom Line Up Front 

Bottom line up front, or BLUF as it’s commonly referred to among service members, is the idea of leading with key information when communicating with someone. Whether that’s a simple status update or an important decision requiring senior leader input, our goal is to establish the purpose of our communication. 

What seems like a simple concept in principle can be extremely challenging when trying to distill a complex concept down to a few sentences.  A good goal is to address the 5 Ws: Who, What, Where, When, and Why in the first 1-2 sentences and then follow with additional details. Whether it’s written or spoken communication, this style allows recipients to quickly grasp how something impacts them and then explore additional background information if necessary.  

Let’s explore two common examples of emailing a supervisor with a time-sensitive decision. 

In both, John has all the information necessary to make his decision. Unfortunately, our first example is going to require him to spend several minutes reading before he understands the ask. 

Compare that with the second example which quickly outlines this exchange’s purpose, allowing John to prioritize accordingly. Leading with key information allows senders to keep their communication on point and enables recipients to provide necessary feedback faster.  

Be Economical 

Consultants regularly find themselves helping a project team prepare for a presentation to executive teams. These presentations are opportunities to communicate milestones, solicit feedback for key business decisions, and identify issues that may be impacting a project. In a perfect world, there would be a limitless amount of time available for these presentations – allowing every point to be fully articulated. In reality, executive teams have limited time and attention they can invest in any one topic.  

Project teams are responsible for synthesizing discussion points down to their most essential components and developing a concise method of communicating those points to their audience. Achieving this level of brevity without comprising core messaging requires a high degree of expertise and critical thinking. 

The concept of brevity can be applied across all mediums of communication. Opening an email only to be met with a small dissertation on a subject, is a surefire way to have a message be at best misunderstood and at worst ignored altogether. Investing the time to narrow a message to its essential points increases the likelihood that the audience understands that message and provides the feedback the sender requires.  

Who We Are

Greencastle is a 100% veteran-owned and entirely veteran-operated firm that specializes in strategy execution, operations consulting, and data analytics. We partner with clients to help them achieve successful outcomes in their most critical strategic initiatives.  

Effective communication is just one of the many ways that our teams help–interested in learning more?   

Keep an eye out for more from our military skills series where we’ll be highlighting a full list of skills that veterans can leverage for a successful career in consulting.