Great communication is an art and driver for any enterprise. It creates a common understanding of the project and its objectives, enables team members to carry out their activities at the right time and with the right quality. If information is not communicated effectively, it is useless at best. Many software projects fail due to poor communication. So how do you make sure not to get into this trap?
Communication is a challenge
Every person receives and interprets information differently. What we express as an assumption, another person may decode as a fact. The game of Chinese whispers is a great way to show how information and our interpretation of it changes dramatically when passed from person to person. Still, solid communication skills are the base for good leadership and clear direction to succeed, and without them, it is impossible to build a good project.
Communicating with the decision makers and key stakeholders empowers them to remain engaged and informed at all times. This enables them to make decisions in a timely manner, allowing a smooth flow of work in the development team. And last but not least, clear and honest communication can identify misleading assumptions, preventing misunderstandings and conflicts.
To check if there any communication problems in your team, ask yourself these questions:
1. Do all the members of the project and secondary stakeholders trust each other?
2. Do team members communicate and collaborate even when the pressure is on?
3. Does everyone have a common understanding of what capability the project needs to deliver and why?
4. Are the requirements well-defined and understood by everyone?
5. Is the project status clear to all stakeholders, at all times?
Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.
Communication and work environment go hand in hand
When talking about effective communication at work you also need to consider the work environment. A stifling atmosphere can be the death of any communication before it even starts. Consider the following:
1. Is there a relaxed and comfortable feeling in the work environment?
2. Are team members pro-active and involved?
3. Do they “dare to be different” if it will contribute to the good of the project?
4. Can they challenge the status quo to deliver better results?
Effective communication in the workplace demands that the team feels free to speak their minds. This should be encouraged, even if it means rocking the boat a little. At the end of the day, what is most important is that the project is delivered to the best of your team’s abilities.
To make communication comfortable for everyone in your team, write up a simple communications strategy that gives guidance in relation to:
- what to communicate
- who will communicate
- how to communicate and how NOT to communicate
- when to communicate.
The communication strategy should cover general communication and specific management areas within the project. These include areas such as risk management, quality management, and requirements management. Make sure that everyone knows how to communicate with others so they will understand each other.
The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.
– Peter Drucker
Tips on how to improve your workplace communication
1. Talk face-to-face
A large part of how we communicate with others is in body language. The tone of your voice is also a very important factor. Both of these factors disappear if you rely solely on writing. You should only use email as a backup to face-to-face conversations when covering contentious issues.
As an example, consider the following message: “I hope you can understand.” Is it apologetic or is it condescending? It is easy for a reader to misinterpret your words if they are not in the same frame of mind.
2. Use a capability breakdown structure
Make use of a capability breakdown structure and a build roadmap. This will ensure that you stay on top of all the tasks required to complete your project. It will also provide a handy visual, making it one of the better communication methods in the business place.
3. Write detailed requirements
Writing detailed requirements is very important in order to have effective communication at work. It provides clarity for those who are directly and indirectly involved in the project. This, in turn, gives everyone a better chance at spotting an issue well before time and energy has been funneled into the task.
4. Weekly project status reports
Weekly project status reports are a good way to keep on top of any problems that might have appeared during the week. Additionally, everyone involved can get a sense of progress, which is motivating.
When everyone wins
Effective communication in the workplace can give you an edge over your competitors, as the information is transmitted more efficiently, therefore, saving time and money. It is worth investing your energy into breaking down any communication barriers. Furthermore, it develops trust, confidence, and cooperation between co-workers. Everyone wins.