Communicating Effectively

Effective communication among all project team members is essential for a project’s success. How someone communicates with different stakeholders is of equal importance to the content of the communication. It can also influence how a message is interpreted.   After watching “The Art of Effective Communication,” I found it quite interesting that the same exact message could be interpreted three different ways based upon how it was delivered.

The first message was delivered via email.  Jane asked Mark to finish up a project because she needed his data to complete her portion of the project.  When I read the email, I felt that Jane came across and desperate, panicky, and not very organized. In my opinion, the email portrayed Jane as unprofessional due to both the structure of the letter and her inability to complete a project. Because of my own experience with similar emails, I perceived this message to feel very pestering.  The second modality, voicemail, was, in my opinion, very effective in relaying the message to Mark that Jane was in a bit of a jam until she received his data.  Hearing her voice, I felt that she was sincere and I felt bad for her. She was polite and by the end of the voicemail, I really wanted to help her out.  I have been in a similar situation to Jane and hearing the emotion of her voice helped me to relate back to my own similar experiences.  Finally, I interpreted the face-to-face conversation as very casual.  Jane’s attitude was very laid back and not-demanding.  If I were having this face-to-face conversation with Jane, I would not feel pressured to complete the data that she was requiring. Body language helped me to perceive the message in this manner. Because I am not Jane, I do not know exactly the true meaning and intent of the message.  However, if she needed to retrieve some data, the voicemail was the most striking for me.

As a result of this exercise, I have found that tone of a message has a lot to do with how it is received. Dr. Harold Staolovitch (n.d.) believes that the approach is more important than the actual words being used.  Because of prior experiences with the each modality, stakeholders may have some preconceived ideas before they even here the message.  These pre-held ideas may be a roadblock to effective communication.  This is why important communication is best delivered live and all team members present (n.d.).” In the future, if I were to have any oral conversations with stakeholders, I would want to document all that was being said. In addition, if I were going to communicate through written means, I would do the following:

  1. “Be clear with the purpose.
  2. State with the situation
  3. Include possible solutions
  4. Indicate if sign off is required
  5. Specify the form that the response is required to take.
  6. Keep the tone of all communications business friendly and respectful (n.d.).”

In general, all communication should avoid vagueness and uncertainty (n.d.). It should keep in mind tone, language and attitude. In this situation, I believe a response time would have been important to mention since she seemed to be on a time crunch.

Stolovitch, H. (n.d.). Project management concerns: communication strategies and organizational culture. Retrieved November 17, 2011 from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=6051999&Survey=1&47=7555398&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=1&bhcp=1

Blog Assignment: Learning from a Project “Post-mortem”

It is rather easy for me to recall a project that I coordinated, which, in my opinion, did not produce optimal results. One of my responsibilities at my job is being the Race Director of an annual 5K fun run/walk.  It’s a charity event where community residents, parents and students come together to remember a tragedy that happened in our community almost ten years ago. As I have learned now, there is a lot of work and many people involved in the planning and implementation of this “fun run/walk.” 

In May 2006, I began planning for the event.  I made a list of all the “Things To Do” three months before, two months before, one month, two weeks before and things to do the day of the event.  I then held a face to face meeting with all the managers that were involved.  I gave them their department’s responsibilities, which they all agreed they would take on. In September, two weeks before the event, I checked on everyone to see how things are going and there was total chaos. T-shirts were not ordered, volunteers were not arranged, and athletic trainers were not confirmed.  I spent the last two weeks prior to the race working ten hour days. I was doing not only my job, but other people’s job.  On race day, we had minimal volunteers, ran out of t-shirts, not copied enough registration forms and raised a small amount of money because we were so disorganized.

There are some things that went well during the planning process. For example, the detailed “Things To Do” list.   I believe it provides a good, overall picture of what needs to be worked on. Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer (2008) state that “preparing a written description of the activities is helpful for assigning people to project roles.”  I also liked that we held our pre-race meeting in May. This meeting assembled all of our stakeholders and got them on board for the project.  I am also very appreciative that I did check in with my stakeholders two weeks before the race. These processes are still relevant and still resurface every year.

After the event, we conducted a “post mortem” review of the project and found there were many areas that could easily been improved upon.  For example, during Phase Two:  Creating a Project Plan, all stakeholders could have discussed time, money and volunteer estimates, not just the Race Director.  Stakeholders could have claimed which roles that would have liked to have been involved with.  During the months prior to the event, I could have been communicating more with each department.  Even if we did not meet face-to-face, I could have developed a project progress report.  This report, which I would have emailed, would have “reviewed what has happened during a performance period, describe the problems and the corrective actions needed, and previews what is planned for the next period (2008, p. 361).”  This type of communication would have avoided all of the last minute problems.  It would also have probably produced more participants, more money and a confident and positive attitude from all staff involved. 

Luckily, after this event, which happened five years ago, my employer allowed me to keep my job as Race Director.  This experience has taught me to keep communicating with all parties involved.  It also motivates me every year not to repeat the “Race to Disaster.”

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