With a decade of experience in IT industry under the belt, if I think back on all the experiences when things went right, when things went wrong, when things never really took off, one thing which played the major role is Communication or the lack of communication. We build software for the people, the society and it is built by the team of people. And when a team/people are involved, the first and foremost important thing is how we communicate.
We are in an era of global delivery model where a particular work is accomplished by a set of people spread across geographic areas, time zones with different cultural and linguistic background, it is very important to come up with a communication plan which would bring everyone in the same track. In this article we shall discuss upon Communication methods and its importance.
Why communication is important?
We run under tight budgets and stringent deadlines. A simple communication gap may create havoc and bring the project to stop. Communication is a discipline which we have to follow. Over communication and under communication both have its own consequences. We need to know four things while communicating
- What to communicate
- When to communicate
- How much to communicate
- Who to communicate
These four key things mentioned above forms the basics of communication plan. That is how we start drafting the communication plan and over the time period, it evolves. Stake holders get added, the communication channels being used get added, the schedules get added and the communication plan gets signed off.
What are the communication channels used?
Communication can be broadly classified into Formal and Informal communication which is done through many communication channels.
What does the communication plan contain?
Communicating is not only talking or conveying things to others but also listening and asking questions. Listening is as important as talking as that can bring in more ideas, bigger vision and better results. But having communication plan brings in more command over the communication. People are accountable for what has been communicated and committed by each individual.
With bigger projects in hand, it is difficult to have one-on-one or face to face communication with each team member of the team to discuss on the responsibilities each should take up. Communication plan stream lines the above process.
PMBOK has a template for Communication mechanism to help the project teams. The main components of the template include
- Objective of the communication
- Stake holders
- Communication channel
- Communication frequency
- Documenting the communication held and version control for the same.
It is said that single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. So documenting what is communicated is equally important and it should be shared across the team or stored in a common area where the team can access.
How much to communicate?
We need to have a balance on how much to communicate or how much is too much. The stake holders for each communication differ based on the objective or the agenda set up. A good manager would be careful enough to handle the situation where the manager can sense when a communication going out of control.
A clearly defined distribution list in the mail service will ease the task of communicating to right people when it comes to electronic media. The formal communication should be crisp, to the point and should answer the question if there is any.
Body Language? Does it have anything to do with Communication?
A big YES. How we are communicating is equally important as what we are communicating. The most important aspect in communication is the eye contact. A good eye contact makes us more confident, approachable, good observer and make the communication more interactive.
Apart from eye contact, body postures, gestures, facial expressions, proximity together form the nonverbal communication which aids the verbal communication. Remember, communication is an art. It could be project communication, technical communication or any other organizational communication. But how do we convey brings a lot of difference in the outcome.
Role of Project Manager
A good project manager creates the right environment for the right communication. Project manager has to lead by example. The team should never get a feeling that the system is not transparent. There are good days and there are bad days in any project and project manager should be aware of the fact that we can discuss on certain subjects at certain time in a day. A team would not be interested in having serious discussion at the end of the day.
The meetings should be scheduled keeping the agenda in the mind and the good ambience should be set up. Everybody should be given a chance to express their ideas, bring their vision and are treated equally. The main objective of having a communication is to have clarity on things and that should be met once the meeting is over.
Every project might not come out with flying colours. Project manager should be able to handle the failure the way success is handled. That is where the communication skills of the project manager would help.
Every good conversation starts with good listening. In real world, listening has been put on back bench. People tend to talk. They want people to listen to their ideas, accept them. Incorporating other’s ideas is one of the hardest things to do because of the personal ego problems. But if we go down the history lane, the great leaders have always been good listeners. What makes us good listeners? Below are the points but not limited to which will help in great listening
- Be attentive
- Make good eye contact with the speaker
- Have an open mind.
- No preconceived notions.
- No forcing upon ideas.
Man is a social animal. Developing good communication and listening skills not only help in the IT industry but help the individual to be a better person. Better people make better tomorrow.
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As it says, A Project manager spends 90% of his/her time in communicating with different stakeholders, it becomes even more important to focus on communication. It’s a proven fact that people who are good at communication make good networking which helps in multiple ways to succeed in projects. As Project Manager, working on communication aspects and ensuring communication needs are understood and documented is very important. All above aspects has to be kept in mind to succeed on the path of Project Management.