Communication is an exchange of information. Easy to define. Difficult to master.
Problems caused by insufficient communication can be underestimated and hard to identify. Most of us “think” we communicate effectively and enough, but while too much communication can become overwhelming, it is rarely a problem for most teams.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw
Here are three tips for promoting effective communication within your team:
Tip #1: Encourage knowledge sharing and collaboration
A team is a single unit working toward a common goal. When one person is successful, so are the others. Individual failure impacts the whole team. Think about a team sport like football and the importance of everyone on the field doing their job. If someone misses an assignment, that pass would have never been thrown and caught for the winning score.
True collaboration and sharing require conversations out in the open. People often default to hiding information, which creates a false perception that everyone is on the same page. The complexity of organizations in today’s fast-paced world does not support this behavior. Information must flow freely so everyone shares the same consciousness and is empowered to make decisions.
Whether you are starting a new job, new project, or with a new client, open collaboration is critical to building relationships and instilling confidence. Over the course of my career, I’ve encountered what I call “backdoor conversations.” It can be easy to hop on a call with someone or send them a direct message. But how does that information get back to the team as a whole? It often does not. We encourage everyone to communicate project-related information in public channels and capture notes to deliver proper handoffs to others. While it may sound like a simple adjustment, it can have an immediate impact on your team’s success.
Communication is a crucial element in a team’s effectiveness. Good communication helps build cohesiveness, trust, and strong relationships among team members. It is valued above improving tech skills. – NASA
Tip #2: Leverage multiple channels to gain understanding and awareness
A new music album came out today. You opened up Spotify and saw the promotional banner on the main page. Maybe you follow that artist and you receive a push notification to your phone. You and your friends like the same artist and a couple of them texted you about the new album. Driving home from work, you notice a billboard advertising the album. It is safe to say you are now aware of this new album, and that checking it out is on your to-do list?
Now, what if I removed some of the channels utilized to inform you of this new album? What if only the billboard ad was used? You might not see it, or you may see it and then forget. As you can see, limiting the announcement to only the billboard would fail to create as much urgency.
All of these scenarios represent multiple channels, which are a vital part of any communication strategy. One channel may convey something differently or provide that needed reminder for necessary action. The same principle of leveraging multiple channels is essential for your project teams.
How often do you call something out in a team meeting, but it gets lost in other details and the needed action fails to happen? Keep pressing and use another channel. You could also follow up on it later in the day via email. If a response is required, then make sure a task is created for the issue and get it prioritized.
There is also no reason to wait until an official team meeting to raise topics. Reach out and start the conversation and then bring it up again in the team meeting. A blocker that prevents you from doing your work should be communicated as often as possible until it is solved. There is no harm in letting people know where you stand throughout the day and repeating it throughout available channels to raise awareness.
Tip #3: Processes and tools can support your common goal
We have more ways than ever to communicate effectively. Tools and processes can encourage more communication, but you have to make sure your team is educated on how to use them properly. There is no official standard, but any project management philosophy should focus on continuous improvement. At the end of each iteration, velocity should be captured and compared to previous iterations to gauge productivity. Feedback is also crucial to ensure the team is staying focused and not running into any issues. Project leads should also attempt to limit distractions and make sure everyone on the team is working towards a common goal.
The standard scrum ceremonies run effectively are a good base for any project. You can add or remove based on your team needs. For example, it might make sense to do an official handoff for the QA team to make sure they understand how and what to test. A pre-grooming session between the product owner and a project leader is also a good idea to make the official ceremonies less painful. Also, do not underestimate the impact of having people on site to kick projects off or during a critical release. No matter the format, never hesitate to provide and collect feedback.
Start improving your communication today
You do not have to wait until things are on fire to start communicating better. When it comes to communication, err on the side of providing too much rather than too little. When has anyone responsible for the success of a project told you to quit providing them updates?
Today’s environment is about understanding the process and using it to your advantage. You can be strong in your area of expertise, but if you are not clearly articulating your progress, you cannot succeed.
No matter what your role or responsibility, communication is going to be one of your most crucial skills. A developer needs to keep tasks updated and moving through the workflow, calling out blockers immediately. Project leaders must provide clear statuses of where the project is and make sure the team has what it needs to succeed. The CEO needs to set and communicate the vision and make sure it is ingrained in everyone at the company.
Communication can drive change, build trust, and empower others to make decisions. So what are you waiting for? It is a simple adjustment that you can apply today and every day after that.
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