Communication tips and techniques for successful project teams

08 November

Speed and effectiveness. That’s the ideal communication goal for any successful initiative. It’s not hard to achieve – if the team is disciplined and united. If the team is lazy and fragmented, no sophisticated collaboration app or amount of communication finesse will help.

That’s the first tip: make sure the team is functional, as in not dysfunctional.

Starting with a functional team is critical. That’s not to say every member on the team has to be “all in”. But if key members are not aligned and engaged, the project communication and ultimately the outcome of the project itself will suffer.

Next to having a working team, the next communication tip is one of the most powerful: stop interrupting each other.

While teams are made up of people, the majority of work is a result of individual contributions. Interrupting a team member because you suddenly had a question or thought is disrespectful to their work process. Put another way - communicating with speed and effectiveness is not a one-way street. Unfortunately, social media instant messaging and chat-based tools like Slack are based on interrupting. By any measure unfettered interruptions are hyper-myopic and more often than not, counter-productive.

Before sending any instant message or making a call (audio or video), the sender needs to stop and think about whether the message their sending or answer they need can’t wait. If there is no legitimate urgency to convey the message, don’t interrupt. Save it off to an email or schedule a call for later if needed. Just remember, while it may feel that way, it’s not all about you.

Finally there’s a communication technique that when used consistently by the team can literally give tens if not hundreds of hours back to every team member year over year. What is it? Managed tagging.

Microsoft defines tagging as the act of applying managed metadata to an item. There are quite a few high-powered tools that will create word clouds based on taxonomies and folksonomies, that can be used for tagging. But their use as a day-to-day communication technique is not very efficient. Managed tagging fixes the problem by enlarging the definition of tagging.

When tagging includes email subject lines and the team agrees to a standard format for prefixes and suffixes, merely scanning an inbox can provide instant visibility to the contents of any project related message. Here’s a simplified example of tagging rules for project-specific emails:

  1. PREFIX – all subject lines must start with a 3 character project code, followed by a colon.
  2. SUFFIX – suffixes are used to denote criticality or action; i.e. URGENT, FYI. They must be capitalized and preceded by a dash.
  3. Samples - related to project “PCR” might look like this:
    1. PCR: Employee cutover list –FYI
    2. PCR: Network permissions for New Hires –URGENT
    3. PCR: Input needed for next step –BLOCKER

Another big benefit from adopting a managed email tagging approach, comes from sorting and searching. This is especially useful for PMs and stakeholders working on multiple projects.

 

Summary

Get your team aligned. Stop interrupting each other. Be smart about using email subject lines.

Behind every successful project is superior communication. Do those three things and you will see instant improvement in the speed, effectiveness and efficiency of your team communications.

 

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