project: We’ve been publishing a lot recently about communication at different levels. Still, it seems like this is just the tip of the iceberg. It turns out that communication in the project and in the team is a timeless and inexhaustible topic.
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How to control communication in the project?
I would divide the communication in the project into that going outside (e.g., between us and the client or subcontractors) and internal. Internal communication is between members of our teams and between managers and teams. Is this distinction so important? Probably not, but it’s worth considering for a moment. Communication with the client is usually a bit more formal; sometimes, even its rules and frequency are specified in the contract. Internal communication, in turn, does not have to be so official, but it should also have some rules.
Basically, both the lack of proper communication on the line with the client and poorly conducted internal communication can put us in a position to significantly threaten it. In this post, I focus mainly on the organization of internal communication in a team or project. First, we will analyze the available communication channels and then the best ways to use them.
Currently, apart from classic telephones and e-mails, we have at our disposal instant messaging applications (e.g., Slack, Messenger, Teams) for organizing online meetings (e.g., Zoom or Google Meet) as well as project/task management systems or ticket systems. Some of the tools mentioned are whole platforms that enable communication in many of the ways mentioned.
The sheer multitude of tools and methods makes you feel lost. How to tame this chaos? First, let’s consider what communication channels are necessary for our project or team. We will communicate differently with the client, with subcontractors, and with our internal team. Depending on the “caliber” of the message, we will also use different tools. The approaches are different, and there is no one golden mean – a lot depends on the specifics of our work.
Basic communication channels:
- Instant Messengers
- Conference platforms
- Project and task management tools.
- File and information sharing platforms.
Communication with the team – when is the best one?
There is no perfect, only correct solution. Always follow common sense, the dynamics of our team, and what works and what does not. Let’s be flexible, let’s adapt to the situation, and if something doesn’t work, let’s look for a better solution. The rules of communication are there to be improved. They are not immutable. They should be adapted to the realities of the project, team capabilities, or customer requirements.
Having figured out what means of communication we need, we need to decide what tools we will use to avoid confusion. The point is for everyone to know that when we want to see and hear each other always on Teamsach, the Messenger is Slack. The worst thing is when everyone is using something different, and instead of solving the problem, we waste time wondering if X is best to call Zoom or Google Meet, or maybe they only have Messenger?
In urgent matters, such as those requiring “fire fighting,” if we do not have the opportunity to talk “live,” the telephone (or its equivalents – audio and video calls online) is still the best. Let us, however, make sure that these are indeed urgent matters. Calling each “crap” can cause quite a lot of frustration for our interlocutors. In some teams, in such urgent situations, the communicator works well. It allows for a quick exchange of information. However, there is a certain risk that the person we are trying to contact will not write back in time (for example, he may not notice the notification because he will be busy with something else).
Some things will be important, although not always urgent. These will be, for example, important arrangements, reports, changes in the team or announcements, and organizational matters. This is where e-mail works best. It is also good practice to send an e-mail with a summary of telephone arrangements (short, it does not have to be an essay). Why am I paying attention to this? Because we are human and human memory is unreliable. Today we can remember that a customer called and asked for a correction in the project, but will we also remember that in a month?
Important matters on Email have one more advantage, and they will be relatively easy to find. Sometimes we need to find some relevant findings quickly. Searching for instant messaging in such a situation can be tedious.
A separate book could be written about the meetings, and certainly an extensive entry. On the one hand, meetings can be a bane and a real productivity killer; on the other hand, we know that sometimes it is easier to talk about something in 15 minutes than to exchange dozens of e-mails or switch tasks in the system. As Paul Arden said, “Meetings are for people with too little work.” So meetings must not be abused. It would be best if you organized them for a well-defined purpose so that they are not a waste of time and keep an eye on the agenda. You also need to be well prepared for it and moderate its course well.
During the meeting, it is also important to convey information correctly, stick to the topic and the culture of the conversation.
If you are now wondering why I am writing about delegating tasks in the entry about communication, I am already explaining it. If the task is passed in the wrong way, it will not be understood, all requirements will not be given, or the constraints will not be executed appropriately. And all this, apart from appropriate planning, of course, requires appropriate communication.
This is one of the skills you need to learn to do well as a project manager. However, delegating tasks is difficult for many of us. This happens for a number of reasons. Sometimes we are reluctant to delegate because we would like to do everything ourselves. Others don’t know how to do it right. What then do you need to pay attention to in order to delegate the task properly?
- The assignment must be well formulated. We have to make sure everything is well understood. Better to spend a little more time explaining a task than many hours “straightening” a wrong task. COMMUNICATION above all!
- Let’s establish what a job well-done means. What criteria should be considered as we will verify the result?
- The task must have a specific execution time, budget (if necessary), assumptions. If there is no and it is an open task, it should be clearly stated. Then we should define what scope of decision-making we transfer.
- We need to identify the resources available for the task.
- If it is important, we should agree with the person carrying out the task on how to inform us about progress and problems.
It is worth using the reporting system/work organization or project management system at the team level. Thanks to this, we have everything in one place. Even if we order the task differently, it is worth making sure that its trace appears in the form of a notification/task in the system. Adopting such an approach also works well in the customer-supplier relationship, when we account for the tasks performed and when these tasks require many additional arrangements. Again, the task system works well for many teams, but there will always be exceptions. And depending on the band, we will use it differently. Everything needs to be worked out and adjusted. We will also approach the matter completely differently when our entire team works stationary in one place and different when we are remotely dispersed.
Of course, the team working together will also need to exchange information on an ongoing basis, communicate urgent issues, and simply communicate with each other. Then communicators are great, which in the era of remote work also replaces “chatting over coffee” and allows you to maintain team relationships.
However, I warn you against using communicators in relations with the client as well as in teams or projects where our obligations are small. E.g., we have a minimal number of hours allocated to it.
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