Thursday, October 06, 2005

Communication at the heart of project success

Effective communication within a project is not often identified as *the key factor* in the success of a project. This article shows why ineffective communication has such a high detrimental impact and a high-level overview of the scope of effective communication.

Effective communication means sharing or stimulating the following:

- Maintaining clear targets and objectives, even when these change
- Good understanding of pr scope and constraints
- Feeling of recognition and being part of a team
- Prevention of unnecessary or doubled work
- Knowledge who is doing what and a constant reminder of time remaining
- The notion that the current work undertaken is useful for others
- Sharing experiences, knowledge to support work of others
- Gauging levels of experience and knowledge with others in new teams
- Let others know you are aware of your roles & responsibilities
- Let others know what your roles and responsibilities are

There are severe side-effects on motivation if communication does not take place. When communication is withheld consistently, or openness for communication is reduced, motivation may drop to an absolute zero in time of a few weeks. Drops in motivation result in "chatter" in a project, which is sometimes viewed as "unnecessary communication" by managers.

Since lack of *effective* communication results in poor work, which increases the "chatter" and unhappy faces. Unfortunately some managers respond to these symptoms ( side-effects ) by further reducing communication in an effort to increase productivity by reducing the chatter. This results in either:

1. The deliverables are made on time, but everybody is unhappy and time is needed to regain confidence.

2. The deliverables are not made on time and everybody is further de-motivated.

So, the best strategy is always: Try to find the actual problem points in the communication line. Some questions may help to identify this:

- Is there lack of direction?
- Is there uncertainty about how or what to undertake?
- Are there (slumbering) conflicts within the team?
- Do meetings happen and are these effective?
- Is email used effectively to resolve problems?
- Are people highly opiniated or ego-centric and do they hardly ever come to a conclusion? ( concessions )

When the problem point(s) is (are) identified, attack the source where it exists.

Always attempt to maintain a team that communicates openly, as frequently as needed, sharing information as efficiently as possible, and communicate with respect for one another.

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