I’m just preparing to go to a conference and that’s for communication; that’s to fill out in between all of the millions of emails and telephone conferences and so forth.
A chance to meet real people face-to-face.
It’s also a chance to hear presentations, sometimes good, sometimes not so good, and a conference always brings surprises as well. Maybe an insight to something or an opportunity to think something through that has been on the long finger for a long time.
Communication is also an issue among schoolchildren. A recent report in Switzerland looked to find out if the social networks are replacing personal communications and the answer is “no”.
People have communications with each other and then the social network is a way of keeping in touch with them.
But they don’t start from there, not for real communications.
And then the same thing applies in the political world. There have been very big movements globally in various elections and referenda in recent times and it seems that some of the comments that are coming out is that the way of communicating with particular groups in the population was maybe much, much more direct than the traditional elevated way that we tend to use in a working environment.
So all of that is very relevant to how that we work in the modern world and I’m looking forward to your comments and your experiences on that below this blog.
Thanks very much.
Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork: Online Training for Project Management & Team Building
“Overlap time costs money” – a short video from scatterwork.com.
To give an example: When can we meet for a call? We have participants in New York, London and Sydney.
One combination is, 7 a.m. in New York (somebody gets out of bed a bit early), midday in London, 11 p.m. in Sydney (somebody goes to bed very late).
Here’s another combination; 5 p.m. in New York is OK, 10 p.m. in London – that’s a bit late, but Sydney is OK.
So our conclusion is that overlap time is very limited and it costs money, particularly if the people involved have to be paid overtime or there are additional costs for communication. So here are some strategies for dealing with this.
1. One strategy is to share documents before a meeting. Don’t waste meeting time just to say “I’ll send you this”.
Share access to databases and documents for the same reasons. If you make edits, comment them in the document so that the discussion can take place in writing and then it can be asynchronous; in other words you can make the comment when you see it, without needing overlap time to talk.
2. Partition the work so that you don’t need so much communication. If each work package is done in a particular place, then the communication within that work package is local and the actual amount of communication can be reduced.
3. Make the communication easier using a cloud-based collaboration service with workrooms (we use Podio). This is much easier than using email because the messages come in and they are tagged onto the particular deliverable or task.
With emails you have to always ask what they relate to and connect them back, so that’s a big tip.
To discuss any of these issues or indeed your own projects please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or any of the other methods.
I look forward to talking to you. Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.
Document Version Control is important,right? – a short video from Scatterwork.com. One way of creating problems in the working environment is to collect information that others need, to put it into a version of a document, to pass it on to them but if the information is not correct then that creates problems for the person who gets it. Either they do the wrong thing, that takes their time, they have to sort out the mess and go back or they can’t do their work at all.
So maybe to avoid problems we could think of version control in a more emotional way and say “don’t mess things up for others”. When you pass the information, don’t pass problems to them but make sure that they have the right version of it, and this means all the time: attention to detail.
So if you want to discuss this or any other project issues please connect with me through LinkedIn or any of the other methods.
Thanks very much. Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.
This short video from Scatterwork is about what your lack of communication does to you. Imagine a situation to call a meeting. Somebody requests the meeting and the assistant will send out a request “is it OK on Tuesday?” and the team will say “That’s fine” and then the invitation is sent. This is maybe where a problem might arise. The invitation may not be seen by the boss for some days because he or she is busy doing something else;is away; is traveling; whatever. So there is a lack of communication at that stage. Also there was already a lack because Tuesday wasn’t specific enough and it could be that somebody is available at particular time of the day but not another, so eventually the boss answers “Sorry that time doesn’t work” so the assistant has to repeat the work by telephone. He or she has to
ring around and wait until each person is free.
Eventually everybody says “OK” then they schedule the meeting.It depends and could be several days before they actually meet; then they hold meeting.So what do we learn? One of the things we notice is that poor process includes many opportunities for poor communication or even total lack and if we think about, it whenever we delay on a communication we are actually delaying the whole issue or the whole object of what we are trying to do. Another downside is that the best time option is not systematically selected.Then everyone gets involved a couple of times and in the end they might even take more time to organize the meeting then to hold the meeting.Some general conclusions: for one off actions of course we just do the work.But all tasks in business are a combination of some activity and communicating about it.
We should be aware of the delay impact that the lack of communication or lack of good or accurate communication causes.We need to think through; come to a meeting with the right materials, with the right information so that we don’t go away saying “I could have known beforehand, but I did not”.Because you cannot make up lost delay. So if you’re interested in any of these topics or any other project issues, please contact me. You have the contact details there on the screen. I look forward to talking to you.
Dr. Deasún Ó Conchúir (pronounce) is a Collaboration Consultant at Scatterwork, which supports Project Solutions for Virtual Teams.
The Challenge: Reaching a very diverse and globally spread workforce
As the working environment for many is spread globally and very diverse, it is of interest how a company can reach its workforce securely and without onerous CAPEX.
The Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) decided that their solution was to provide twenty thousand tablets and smartphones to their remote workers, such as train drivers and ticket collectors. The aim of this includes better communication with passengers, for example regarding disturbances to the timetable. Timely messages about delays and diversions can help take the sting out of changes.
Not every company could rise to this level of expenditure and so it is worth looking at the alternatives, including unconventional means.
The Messaging Environment
How and when to use messaging inside a distributed company raises other points to be exploited for company or project communications and selected according to circumstances:
Reach: technically unlimited, but twitter-type messages scroll out of view very quickly, so their impact is short lived, unless the reader is specifically expecting a message. Speed of Communication: effectively instantaneous, even more so than the telephone, as the recipient may be in a meeting and not wish to take a call but will read a message. Data Security: one-to many communication is by definition visible, but can carry encoded messages. Push v. Pull: The appropriate option can be used depending on the needs of the stakeholders (who are by definition the partners/ targets for communication). BYOD (bring your own device): If a company (such as SBB) wanted to, it could invite workers to use their own devices, but it could then not as easily ensure that the communication would be reliable. There is a trade off between reliability and cost.
Tweet, Update or Post
Tweets (Twitter), Updates (LinkedIn), Posts (Facebook) and the like are all versions of a one-to-many messages, just like radio or television. If however employees at any level of the hierarchy are encouraged to share their ideas, they can result in a significant increase the business tempo. Zappo’s social media marketing is a well publicised example of this:
The Pros and Cons: Public Messaging
The advantages of public messaging (such as Twitter) include:
messages can be broadcast one-to-many
reception is instantaneous
messages are visible to search engines (Google etc) and this can be of use when it is useful to “tell the world” for non-confidential matters, such as project progress or skills and capabilities of employees.
The disadvantages of public messaging include:
lack of confidentiality
this can be overcome by coding, but makes the messaging more cumbersome. Even with coding, the world can see that you are active.
The Pros and Cons: In-company Messaging
In-company messaging includes a function similar to “update” in LinkedIn or Facebook “post”, accessed eg via the email. The advantages include:
messages can be broadcast within the entire company, regardless of hierarchy. For example immediately after getting a new assignment, a project manager can ask who has similar experience, who he should talk to, who might be interested in joining the project team etc.
the interaction speed is usually far far faster than traditional chains of command. For example, a message sent out from a meeting may get an instantaneous reaction, compared with days or weeks by other methods. This fast response matters in connection with creativeness within a competitive environment.
The Pros and Cons: SMS / Text Messaging
Although SMS Messaging can be delivered one-to-many, it is more usual to be used one-to-one. The advantages include:
Works nearly anywhere, even where the data networks are weak or non-existent, because it uses the mobile phone network.
Usually sent from the phone, so not so easy for complex messages.
Tedious to archive.
Tweet, update or post your workforce?
Yes, but the format and option used should be driven by the communication objectives, the needs of the stakeholders and with regard to other issues such as confidentiality, as illustrated by the email usage of Hilary Clinton.
When I read project manager job descriptions, they often seem to be written for superman or superwoman, as they require skills in a huge range of areas. Typically they include leadership, self-starter, analyst, motivator, not to mention negotiator, as well as coach and team builder and so on.
Is it really possible to find all these qualities in one person? Even if the individual is very competent, every person has their own preferences and style and cannot possibly be an expert in everything. Somebody who is analytical and great for planning may be not so good at negotiation, or the competent leader may not be so good at the detailed work.
The conclusion is that these shopping lists of project manager qualities may all be desirable, but that they will not all be provided by the project manager. Here are some project manager tips you might find helpful in both building and learning these skills.
A Project Manager Priority – Communication
So if the project manager is unlikely to be master of all possible skills, which ones are really essential, assuming that the other skills will be present in other members of the project team? High on my list would be Communication skills.
One way of looking at project management is that the leader (also known as “project manager”) takes the role of communicating the vision of the completed project to the team members and other stakeholders, even before the vision is realised.
This is a challenge. Even when something exists and is generally accepted as useful, it can still be very difficult to get everybody to work towards the vision. There is an old story where the bricklayer was asked what he was doing, to which he replied “building a wall”, while his colleague answered “building a cathedral”. They were doing the same work, but one lacked the vision.
Team Motivation also depends on understanding the relevance of what has to be done and deciding that it is worth the effort. Again, communication is a key project manager skill, so that the team understand not only what has to be be done but why it is important.
This leads me to Communication as one of the most important skills for the project manager. Good communication can be used to share bothe project vision and how to achieve it.
Communication can take many forms
In it’s most direct form, communication is simply talking but in our modern world, communication can take a very wide range of forms. Some of them are particularly useful for project managers, such as:
Resource Levelling etc.
Other communication methods are not restricted to project management, but are certainly also useful:
eMail and so on.
One of my favourites for the project manager is “Active Listening“, where the listener stops doing everything else and pays attention to the speaker. This is one of the most powerful Project Manager tools, both to get the work done and to build up team spirit and mutual respect.
If the listener multi-tasks (looks at the ticker on the computer screen, reads mobile phone messages, flicks through brochures or reading material and so on), while pretending to listen, the reaction of the colleague is likely to be negative.
The opposite scenarios is far more conducive to the sharing of motivation and vision which a project manager needs. Simply by agreeing within a project team that meetings will take place without multitasking is one of the easiest ways to improve project team communication.
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