Beyond Tin Cans and String – Project Communication in the Digital World, part 1

May 27, 2015

With email, voice mail, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and all the other digital options, you would not think it is necessary to talk about communication.  However, even with all the latest technology are we effectively communicating with our teams or just sending out sound bites?

Effective communication within any project is critical for the project’s success and most effective Project Managers plan and evaluate their communication needs throughout the project.  These communications will change as the project moves toward completion and as the scope and complexity of the project may morph during the execution.  Here are a few tips to help keep your communications on target.

Have a Plan

Anyone who has ever lead a project will appreciate the need for some type of communications plan.  While the plan may need to be tweaked throughout the project, starting with a firm foundation on how communications will be done during the project, will assist in the addressing of issues during the project.  When creating a communications plan, you may want to consider the following:

  1. Start with a weekly communication. This can be either a face-to-face meeting (if everyone is located geographically close), a weekly call, and/or a written status report.
  2. Weekly Meetings need to have a purpose. Do not meet just for the sake of meeting.  Have the meeting scheduled and on everyone’s calendar.
  3. Always meet. While you may not have anything to discuss, one of the team members may have something they are keeping until the meeting.  Hold every meeting to make sure there are no issues and adjourn.
  4. If some of the team members are remote, consider using a video conference, Skype, or some type of internet conferencing. When possible, try to have everyone on camera.  First, it allows everyone to interact.   Lastly, it makes sure everyone is paying attention.
  5. Don’t forget to plan the communications to the users and stakeholders. They will need to have some communication throughout the project to aid in the ultimate adoption of the new process or technology.
  6. When attending or conducting any meeting, pay attention. Do not try to read other emails or multi-task.  Inevitably, you will be asked a question when you are not listening.
  7. When on the phone, remember people can hear your expressions. The words will sound different.

Keep it Simple

You are not writing the world’s greatest novel, keep all communications clear and concise.  You are not trying to impress people with your command of the English language.  When creating communications:

  1. Like writing for the news media, keep the language at 5th grade level.
  2. Keep your sentences simple and not too complex.
  3. If discussing a change or solution, always reference the problem that is being fixed.
  4. Don’t use pronouns. Be specific as to who or what you are referencing.
  5. Watch your spelling. That is what spell check is for.  Depending on your audience, a misspelled word could negate your entire communication.
  6. Keep it short and only address one issue or topic.
  7. At times, the most efficient communication is a phone call, and not using multiple emails to finalize one topic.

Don’t Assume Everyone Has Read the Communications

Once you have sent your communication, you may want to consider a follow-up communication with additional information.    Unfortunately, the digital age has led to information overload.   With the hundreds of emails a person can receive daily (in addition to their distraction with Twitter and Facebook), oftentimes communications do not always get read the first time.  By sending out a follow-up communication, it may get the recipients to read the first email.

If your communication is sending instruction on how to use a system, you may want to consider a follow-up, interactive teleconference.  That way you know they have understood your communication.

Stay tuned for part 2…