2006 Award Winners

Congratulations to APCC 2006 Award Winners

Consulting Success proudly announces the 2006 APCC Awards recipients. This year the organization recognizes two winners, one for the Honor Roll of Excellence in Communication and the other for Excellence in Training.

  1. Honor Roll of Excellence in Communication (client award)
    William Brown III and Abbott Laboratories, Abbott Diagnostics Division
    (ADD), received the APCC 2006 Honor Roll of Excellence in Communication for 2006. Abbott consultant and long-time APCC member, Jeanne Weiland Herrick reports that both Brown and ADD, which he heads, have shown exemplary commitment to the value of clear and efficient communication and have consistently supported that commitment with the necessary resources.Brown contacted Jeanne when he became frustrated with the inefficient and sometimes muddled reports he was receiving from some of his top people. He first hired Jeanne for one-on-one communication coaching with a director and a vice-president. But Brown had the wisdom to recognize that his employees were both outstanding in every way except for their communication skills. Therefore, he authorized a large budget for the project and any other communication issues that emerged in the next twelve months.

    After the initial coaching sessions, Jeanne reports that the work at Abbott grew, not so much because of needs she perceived, but because the insightful Bill Brown and the two executives who received Jeanne’s coaching saw the value of further communication consulting.

    Some of the functions Jeanne performed for Abbott included:

    • Attending project update meetings in order to she identify ways to improve reports
    • Conducting ethnographic research on the writing of assay procedures in order to contribute to a team revising the way procedures were written
    • Conducting customer research and recommending changes to customer communication
    • Revising project update reports made to top management, establishing best practices, designing the documents, and developing training to support the improvements

    In addition, Jeanne says that everyone along the way took the initiative to work on their own to improve their communications skills. For example, when she mentioned the Minto Pyramid, Brown bought and read the book and applied the concept to many of his own communications. Another employee requested and completed reading materials and writing exercises on his own.

    In Bill Brown and Abbott Labs, Jeanne found what we all know to be the key to successful partnership with clients: support from top management.

    “For once,” Jeanne says, “a client sees that clear, precise, and effective is not a secondary skill but a crucial skill for the delivery of first-rate products, a profitable business, and career growth.”

  1. Excellence in Training (member award)
    Recipients of the 2006 Dan Dieterich Award for Excellence in Training are Thom Haller, principal of Info. Design Inc., and by extension all who planned, wrote, and produced the outstanding restructuring and revision of http://www.plainlanguage.gov/. This award recognizes the multiple examples of training delivery involved in the project: two classroom projects and the site’s continuing use for self-directed individual training available for federal government and public use. This multifaceted work exemplifies best practices in merging traditional training delivery and technology.Like many Web sites, http://www.plainlanguage.gov/ succeeded at bringing content together in one place. But finding the content they wanted on the 1996-era site became increasingly difficult for users. It fell to Information Architect Thom Haller to oversee “making the complex clear.”

    As a first step, Thom trained a class at Johns Hopkins University to find out how users reacted to the old site and envision how a new site might be structured with better support for users. Hopkins students gathered information from stakeholders, potential users, and others. They analyzed the former site using heuristics (rules of thumb) and presenting the findings to PLAIN.

    Next Thom led his USDA Information Architecture class to use the planning document as a guide to organize the task information gathered from interviews and build content groupings based on what users wanted to do. The class and volunteers were trained to develop increasingly complex prototypes for user testing based on the knowledge of how users think, which had been gathered by the John Hopkins students.

    With the audiences and purposes in mind, Annetta Cheek, principal spokesperson for PLAIN, collected content from more than 20 different writers, including APCC members. Near the end of the project, Thom led volunteers to revisit the measures of success identified at the beginning of the project, make changes in structure, and add additional “linked” relationships.

    The result is a new http://www.plainlanguage.gov/ that now delivers up-to-date, active learning materials for federal government employees and the public. Its rich content, first-rate design, and easy-to-use structure will remain current because of on-going user testing and refinements. So a design project based first on training students and volunteers has produced a Web site dedicated to helping people produce plain language documents by offering multiple examples, guidelines, links, as well as its own self-directed training modules.

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