I was recently hired as a consultant to take over a project for an organization. The project was pretty mature – main functionality already rolled out and now just running down issues and discussing next functionality or similar projects.
Here’s the communication issue: everyone in the organization seems to use a different communication method. A few love Skype for everything…text/chat, call, video. Others like a mobile chat app for smartphones that I had never heard of or used before (that’s me though, not them). And finally, email. My dilemma is this – I reached out with a question via email expecting an email response. I waited and even followed up via email. Then, about 4 days after I asked the question I logged into Skype because I had an upcoming call with a new client and there was my response – via Skype chat and it was two days old. It didn’t really cause any problems, but on a bigger project – or even this project at a more critical juncture – it could have caused major issues.
What’s the solution? It’s critical that you tighten up communication processes on the project and for a project that you have from the start…start with the processes well defined and stick to them. At the very least you need to…
Have a communication plan.
Define a plan for communicating on the project. That can be an official document or some bullet items sent out via email at the beginning of the project. The key is to define how and what types of communication will happen. Will you be having daily stand-ups? Will you be having weekly project status calls with the team and customer? Together or separate? Will email be your primary communication method? Something else? And be sure to list all key stakeholders’ contact info somewhere that everyone can access – possibly and email at the beginning of the project if you aren’t producing a formal communication plan.
Predefine communication processes.
This may or may not be something you identify in the communication plan, but as an organization, figure out how you will best communicate to each other. By phone? By text? Through social media? By email? Figure out something consistent, let everyone know, and then use it – and use it wisely.
Respond using the same communication method.
People will stray from the processes defined for the project or organization. It just happens. And that’s ok – as long as you still remain consistent. If someone asks you a question via email, respond via email. Don’t respond via Skype chat. The original sender isn’t looking for your response via Skype – who knows how soon they will see it? But if they asked you question via email, chances are they’re looking for your response there as well. Be consistent.
Summary / call for input
How about our readers? Have you ever led or acquired a project – or possibly even stepped into an organization as a new consultant or employee – where it seemed that project communication protocols were either ill-defined or not really defined at all? Did you experience communication ineffeciences? Did it slow answers and decisions or possible cause some information to fall through the cracks? How did you solve it?
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