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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Communication in (Not Only) Project Management

Cornelius Fichtner left a comment under my post about waiting until others guess what we’re thinking. Cornelius says:

The lesson from this story translates extremely well into project management: You have to manage stakeholder expectations through proactive communication.

Actually, the situation when we and our customers look at the same thing very differently is nothing uncommon. That’s probably bread and butter of every project manager. Depending on methodology you use the answer will differ: you’ll go for detailed specification and formal requirement gathering process if you use one of heavy-weight methodologies or you’ll choose short iterations and frequent verifications by the customer if you’re agile. It doesn’t really matter.

The clue here is communication. It may happen very intensively on the beginning of the project and later you can refer to agreed specifications. It may be scattered with the same intensity over whole project. But whenever any detail is ambiguous we should communicate to get rid of ambiguity. Unfortunately we so often choose to make some (usually wrong) assumptions instead of communicate.

Now, forget about project management and think about life generally and the advice will be the same. It happens oh so often we’re angry because someone doesn’t guess what we’re thinking or we expect something is perfectly clear while it was stated in ambiguous way or wasn’t stated at all. Communicating instead of assuming is almost always a better choice.

in: communication

3 comments… add one

  • ExecutiveBrief October 7, 2008, 5:29 am

    In project management, feedback is an important element of communication, and as communication is vital to business success, feedback is therefore a key contributor to success as well.

    One of the main catalysts for failure or difficulty within the team is misunderstandings in communication. Business environment inherently brings together team members with different communication styles, language, and many other factors that may lead to differences in interpreting communication or verbal and non-verbal cues. Ideally, before a team is established, a feedback methodology should be discussed in order to avoid any future miscommunications that may potentially serve to railroad project efforts.

    When the feedback process is carried out appropriately, there are many benefits to be realized. Feedback is a valuable tool in building employee confidence, boosting morale, and enhancing the reputation of the business.

    Businesses must understand the importance of customer feedback and consider how valuable this information can be as they work to create new or revise existing services and solutions. In addition, staff training should be offered so that employees are capable of giving and receiving feedback in such a way that facilitates and encourages discussion and further development of both the staff and the company as a whole.


  • Pawel Brodzinski October 7, 2008, 5:58 am

    I wouldn’t go that far. Yes, delivering clear feedback is crucial to improve communication. However, I definitely wouldn’t treat establishing feedback methdology as a sure-shot technique. Most likely it is needed in environments which includes big number of people from different countries and different cultures, but if you’re dealing with small team and (almost) everyone works in the same place there are much better techniques to achieve the goal.

  • yatsevsky October 21, 2008, 12:13 pm

    I had a case of failing project just because the stakeholder had no time to communicate over ambigious points, nor had time to review demos. After formal release, the project appeared to be skipping some of the most vital requirements which are actually weren’t recorded from the very beginning (nothing to refer, still client’s thinking he’s right).

    Lesson’s learned. Stakeholders should be always aware they need to contribute to project as well, no matter which methodology is chosen still.

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