What Makes for Good Communication?
September 16, 2011
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I have touted the need for better communication on a recent project. However, I realized that I have failed to specify what good communication means to me. Below is a list of important quality attributes for communication. Please comment to include your thoughts or add to the list.
Share information that will, or is at risk to, impact planned activities or the status quo as soon as possible. This provides the greatest chance of being able to respond appropriately to the situation with careful thought on planning. Even if only a risk, the earlier the information is provided, the sooner mitigation planning can occur. Not sure if there is an impact? Share anyway. It is better to share too much information than to risk not sharing critical information.
Information is not useful unless it the truth. There may be reasons you are required to withhold partial information such as a confidentiality agreement or promise. Let others know what you cannot share with the reason and they will respect that. There are dangers in not being truthful. Misinformation can lead to actions that negatively impact the actual situation. A loss of trust will impact the relationship indefinitely.
There is a good chance that others have information or experience that will impact the analysis of the current situation. You will not have a full picture of the impacts, implications, or opportunities if you are not open and offer the opportunity to share my knowledge with you. Further, you will send the message that you do not value opinion or experience of those around you.
My biggest project mistake was related to this attribute. I write very good status reports. They are succinct; cover the top accomplishments, risks, and issues, and candid. I rarely hide or sugarcoat anything. They are always emailed with a “please let me know if you have comments or concerns“, to offer a two-way street. What I did not do was confirm that the project sponsor had read and understood the status report. I found this out the hard way when in a rare one-on-one conversation I discovered that she was not aware of the current status and issues the project was facing. She received the status reports but they did not make it to the top of her reading pile. If a message is provided, but not received, there was no communication. I corrected this by scheduling 30 minutes each month to cover the status report with her one-on-one for future reporting.
The recipe for good communication is to share information as soon as you receive it to all that are potentially affected, be candid in the information you share, give an opportunity for feedback and discussion, and confirm that the message was received and understood.