A couple of recent articles in Project Expert reminded me of a speech I gave a few years ago about how difficult it can be to communicate. I included some humorous examples of times when I thought I had communicated or understood something and then found out to my surprise that I had not. From the reaction of the audience (an international organization devoted to training its members in public speaking), I think I touched on a common theme, which is that communication is not just about writing a memo, holding a meeting, or even talking to someone. It’s actually about creating understanding.
The first article that brought this to mind is Davin Wilfrid’s report from SAPPHIRE NOW 2010, “Is Buy-In Overrated?” You may have seen his blog about it. Gary Bennett of McDermott Consulting maintains that what a project manager really needs is “understanding of the mission and commitment” obtained through communication and incentives. Seeking buy-in can give the impression that participation is an option. That blog called to mind another article by Davin in the Project Expert knowledgebase: “Four Work Styles That Can Harm Your Project (and How to Manage Them).” William Ziska of Deloitte Consulting gives advice about how to deal with four common personalities, described as non-leaders, overachievers, geeks, and clerks.
The message I took away from the two articles is that you need to be clear about what your message is, understand h
ow people absorb information, and tailor your delivery accordingly. They also reminded me how easy it is for communication to go awry if you aren't paying close attention.
I’d be interested to hear any best practices you’ve used to be sure you are getting your message across, or conversely, your examples of failed communication attempts.