Billy Joel once sang “If my silence made you leave, then that would be my first mistake”. Think about situations at work that could have been avoided or resolved with better communications. Improving your communications is a great way to save time and is one of the key skills you can develop to take your job performance to the next level.
Communications is a pretty broad area, so I’ll focus this post on improving by making sure your communications are well-planned. To take a simple approach, you can improve your communications by applying the same concept you learned if you’ve taken any basic presentation/ public speaking skills class. In public speaking, the classic advice is that the speech has 3 parts – 1) tell them what you’re going to tell them; 2) tell them; 3) tell them what you’ve told them. If you apply this same concept to project management, you’ll find that you can instantly improve the implementation of the project and improve others’ perceptions of how you manage the project. If you think about strong project managers you know, I’m betting they’re good at this.
Throughout my career I’ve seen examples of really great communications and some not-so-great. Take the example of two project teams who worked on similar projects – one was really well received, the other – well, not so much.
This is what the effective team did:
- Planned communications as part of their work from the very beginning of the project
- Determined key stakeholders and briefed them on what was changing and when to expect it (applying the skill of “tell them what you’re going to tell them”)
- As each major milestone approached, briefed the stakeholders
- Anticipated and wrote FAQs
- Implemented the change (applied skill of “tell them”)
- Followed up – considered what the impact of the changes would be, and proactively sent follow up communications, i.e. this is what changed, here’s how you’ll see it show up, here’s what to do if there’s a problem, etc. (applied skill of “tell them what you told them”)
For most people, it comes down to a matter of time. We’re busy people – do we really have time to communicate everything to the nth degree? As you might suspect, I’d argue that you really don’t have time to skimp on communications.
In the spirit of taking my own advice, my blogging is a good example of where the silence in communications could lead people to the wrong conclusions. After my last post, I changed roles within HP, and I haven’t had a chance to blog as I shifted blogging down in priorities to pick up the extra responsibilities involved in changing roles. It’s been a really busy 2 months. Even though it’s been a conscious reprioritization, if I were coaching myself, I’d say you should keep people informed rather than go silent. Otherwise you’re just leaving questions and speculation and leaving people guessing on what happened. The same holds true with projects. If you run into delays, tell people. If there’s an action coming up, tell them. If you did what you said you’d do, let them know, so they know it’s complete.
What do you think? What advice would you give about using communications effectively?
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