Bottom line up front

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., -- Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): If you want to more effectively communicate with leaders, co-workers, and subordinates, get to the point.

BLUF is an acronym we often see in email correspondence to give the reader a quick summary of the issue addressed. Not only does this method give the reader a quick summary of the issue, it gives the option to either read the remainder of the email (with much more detail) or the reader may choose to skip the details being content with the summary (BLUF) provided. In addition to saving the reader time, it allows the message to be conveyed much more succinctly and, in many situations, precisely.

However, this method of communication is not exclusive to emails. I propose that this communication tool can be effectively utilized in our work conversations and meetings as well. Let's take a look at how we can better utilize BLUF to improve our day-to- day communications in the work place.

From the leaders perspective it may be a matter of trust. Do you trust your people enough NOT to require every minute detail of a given situation? Are you "down in the weeds"? If a summary of the issue at hand is enough, encourage your people to give you the BLUF. As a leader provide those, who provide you with information, with your expectations. For example, "Sergeant Jones I appreciate your efforts but I don't need every detail of everything you are working".

From the subordinates perspective, are you giving a straight answer? If someone asks, "What color is the sky?" you don't need to describe how electromagnetic waves pass through the atmosphere...Simply stating that the sky is blue would suffice. Ask yourself the question, "does my boss really need all of this information?" That's why you are there. If you are working on a project it is up to you to know the details. Give your boss the BLUF and if he or she needs additional info they will ask...Just make sure you are prepared to give the details if necessary.

From your peers perspective, please stop wasting everyone else's time by giving every detail. Not only are you likely giving the "boss" more information than he or she needs, your coworkers, who may be in the meeting with you have to hear it, as well. Again, stick to the BLUF and save everyone some time.

Numerous articles have been written on effective communication, and for good reason. It often seems most problems, no matter how big or small, can be traced back to a lack of effective communication. When it comes to communicating, there is a big difference between data and information. With all of the technological advances there's no shortage of data, but in today's environment of doing more with less, it's more critical than ever that we focus on information.