Week 3 The Art of Effective Communication: It’s all in how you say it / write it.


According to Portney et al, (2008), “The key to successful project management is effective communication – sharing the right messages with the right people in a timely manner. Through communication, people exchange and share information which influences attitudes, behaviors, and understandings.
Communication may be informal, formal, written or verbal. Whatever form the communications take, project managers should plan and prepare so their messages are received and correctly interpreted by project audiences”.

How did your interpretation of the message change from one modality to the next?

The three modalities of communication we looked at this week are: email, voicemail, and Vis à Vis (face to face). In the email, it seemed snobby, arrogant, and a bit bossy. In my opinion, there is no way to accurately or effectively portray “tone” in an email. Other than changing the color and the font in an email, so as not to give the wrong impression or hurt feelings, one can only state the matter in a respectful way.

In an email, there is an opportunity for a misinterpretation / translation issue. This perceived “tone” could also cause a misunderstanding or hurt someone’s feelings unintentionally. This should be a third choice, or a follow up to an in person contact, if a project team is in the same building(s).

“So it is not perceived in a wrong light for other than its true purpose: to obtain the required data so the other team member can submit their report on time, change the color and the font.”

Voicemail is a little better than email. It can convey tone, context and meaning using voice. However, Voicemail is like email: one never knows when the message will be opened and listened to. Sometimes voicemails do not go to their intended target. Other times, there may be a malfunction in the telephone equipment. Then there are the times when the voicemail is just not picked up / heard.

Vis à Vis (face to face) communication is a better way to get the information one needs if they are located in the same area(s). It is more personal, it can convey meaning and context, and it provides more motivation for the team member(s).

Which form of communication best conveyed the true meaning and intent of the message?

Vis à Vis (face to face) communication is the best form of communication to get the information one needs if they are located in the same area(s). It is more personal, it can convey meaning and context, and it provides more motivation for the team member(s). People, in general, respond better. There can be no mistaking a person’s facial expression, tone, inflection, mannerisms, etc. which cannot be conveyed in an email or a voicemail.

The factors that influenced this decision: face to face communication is more effective because it is more personal. It also best conveys the message that she may miss her deadline. She is able to connect with the team member and they can also iron out any wrinkles in the transfer of information.

Not everyone is comfortable with Vis à Vis contact. So voicemail should be a second option of communication. They may not check their mail on a regular basis and may “miss something”. If they do not check in regularly, it could cause Jane to miss her deadline.

The last option would be that if one needed a confirmation, email would be a good avenue. However it still does not minimize the chances for a misunderstanding / misinterpretation..

A synthesis of thoughts regarding what this activity implies about communicating with members of a project team.

As a PM, the persons who need to know and want to know about the project, should be the ones receiving the information. One needs to take into account the location of other team members. It may be that they are spread worldwide and this poses another issue – lack of face to face contact. However, with the technologies we have today, we have the ability to Skype meetings or in the education systems – use BlackBoard Elluminate / BlackBoard Collaborate.

What did you learn that will help you communicate more effectively with others in the future?

I think the most important item would be to make sure that any emails and voicemails are kept short and to the point, “just the facts, ma’am”. Messages can be formal, planned ahead, in standard format and on an established schedule. They can also be informal where the information is shared as it either becomes available or as people think of it (Portny, 2008). If it is an informal communication, to minimize chances for misunderstandings, misinterpretations, or hurt feelings, a PM could do a few things such as: confirm in writing the important aspects of the informal discussion; make sure that all involved in an important topic are present and addressed; prepare regularly scheduled reports in standard format; stay focused – keep on topic; minimized jargon; emphasize key issues in another color / font, or on different colored paper; and say what needs to be said and STOP (Portny, 2008)

References

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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Post Mortem – Health Tracking

X marks the spot

X marks the spot

When I first started my last job, I shared an office with an amazing person, “Sherry”. Sherry was always working hard, very rarely chatting like the other hens in the office, and almost always a smile on her sweet Southern belle face. She had these long papers taped, glued, stapeled, whatever she had to do, to keep them together. She was always focused and always doing something to those long papers. One day, my curiosity got the better of me and I asked about her papers. Sherry explained to me that all of the health inforamtion that were were required to have was also supposed to be “tracked” somehow. This was how she did it as her predecessor had taught her, in long hand, not utilizing the computer to her left.

We continued our talk and I asked if I could help make her job easier. Who wouldn’t like that, right? I asked her to give me an idea, or draw out her idea, of how should would want a “spreadsheet” like the one she had taped together, only on an 8.5″ x 14″ piece of paper. I asked her to give me a day or two to make it for her (I couldn’t wait that long!) and presented it to her a little while later in an Excel format. I love to create things and creating this spreadsheet for Sherry was very gratifying. I sent it to her in an email and began showing her how to input all the data, etc. for each classroom. Once the hard part was done, filling in all the blanks, she could see exactly what each child was missing from immunizations to a dental visit.

As a child care facility, there are certain things that must be done and certain things that must be tracked. We had a computer software program that would allow data entry but it was highly irritating and not user friendly at all. This was another reason for the spreadsheet. Sherry could take all of the information she had gathered and work directly off of one sheet instead of a million pieces of paper. However, it was still not possible to get everything into a nice Matrix on one sheet of paper.

My desk faced Sherry’s desk. I had happened to look up one afternoon to see that there were only a few sheets of paper on her desk. Usually, it was covered in papers (all in neat piles). I asked about her spreadsheet. The look on her face was priceless. She looked like a kid in a candy store with her favorite lollipop. She was working on her desktop and only had one sheet per classroom – eleven 8.5 x 14 sheets in total – all stapled together.

While I do not like to toot my own horn, too often for fear of getting a “big head”, I must say that I am rather proud of the work we did together to create that Health Tracking sheet. It is now 8 years later and Sherry still uses the same sheet. They finally changed to a different more user friendly software but the spreadsheet still stands on its own. I think what would be nice is to have the paper just a little longer so the font could be a little larger. Other than that, I think the spreadsheet looks great. Sherry did a great job conceptualizing what she needed and wanted for her tracking sheet.

The most frustrating part of the tracking sheet was the font size. Resizing the cells could be done but then it would be difficult to have all of the information need on one side of the paper – which is preferred. The most gratifying and satisfying part of the process in working with Sherry was helping her to be more efficient. Her manual spreadsheets were great! But having them on the computer and being able to do all the wonderous things within a digital world literally opened a whole new world for her. She now creates her own spreadsheets with little help. Every now and again, she will request some help or an “extra eye” to double check a formula or get help with layout.

Portny, et al (2008) stated that getting team buy helps the unit function better. Having consistent systems amd procedures is place is crucial. Each team member may have other projects competing for their time. While the team members may not be familiar with another’s style, knowledge and approach, they may may require time to build up a trusting relationship and be comfortable with each other’s styles and behaviors.

Sherry and I work well together. We understand each other and communicate well. In my opinion, we were the only two stakeholders. However, if we had to bring in another stakeholder, I suppose it would have to be the boss. She did ask questions a few times on why I was helping Sherry. To me, if a co-worker asks for your help, and you have the time or can schedule it in, should you not help as requested? Micro-managing behavior is not my thing. As long as it is work and pertains to the work at hand, stop trying to make a good situation difficult.

References
Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.