While explaining another thing which I thought was obvious for everyone in the team but appeared as not clearly communicated the question came back to me: is it possible to over-communicate in project? I dropped the question on Twitter and expected answers like “Hell no!” Or “Maybe it is possible but no one seen that yet.”
Responses surprised me though. Author of Projects with People found problems of being too detailed for the audience or revealing facts too early. Well, what exactly does “too early” mean? When people already chatter on the subject at the water cooler is it too early? When managers finally become aware of chatter is it still too early? Do we have to wait until management is ready to communicate the fact (which is always too late)?
Actually gossips are powerful and spread fast. The only way to cut them is bring official communication on the subject as soon as possible. Hopefully before gossiping is started. Which does mean early. Earlier than you’d think.
Another thing is being too detailed. This can be considered as unnecessary or even clutter. Clutter is an issue raised by Danie Vermeulen. If something doesn’t bring added value it shouldn’t be communicated. If we kept this strict we could never post any technical message on project forum since there always would be someone who isn’t really interested which framework we’re going to use for dependency injection or how we prevent SQL injection and what the heck is the difference between these two. And how do you know what is a clutter for whom anyway.
John Moore looks at the problem from different perspective – over-communication can be bad when it hurts morale. I must say I agree with the argument to some point. Some bad news isn’t necessarily related with people’s work (e.g. ongoing changes in business team on customer side) and can be due to change. Then keeping information for you may be a good idea. However if bad news is going to strike us either way the earlier means the better. One has to judge individually on each case.
Although I don’t see easy way to deal with above issues they remain valid. Actually I can agree it is possible to over-communicate yet there’s no concrete border or clearly definable warning which yells “This email is too much! You’re over-communicating!” at you whenever you’re going to send unnecessary message.
The best summary came from Lech who pointed that risk of over-communicating is lower than risk of under-communicating. I’d even say that much, much lower. How many projects with too extensive communication have you seen? One? Two? Personally I’ve seen none. On the other hand how many projects suffered because of insufficient communication? I’ve seen dozens of them.
On general we still communicate too little. Yes, we can over-communicate from time to time but I accept the risk just for the sake of dealing a bit better with insufficient communication which is a real problem in our projects.
How does it look like in your teams?