Effective Communication

“The key to successful project management is effective communication—sharing the right messages with the right people in a timely manner” (Portny, et al., 2008, p. 357). Effective communication is perhaps a subjective concept. What works well in one circumstance may not work well in another. This could also hold true from situation to situation.

The three messages this week left me with different interpretations when I progressed through them. My impressions changed further after listening to each message then replaying the previous messages and comparing them.

My impression of each message

Email – there was a muted sense of urgency. It was clear that the information was required, with haste. However, I did not feel as if the information was being demanded immediately. The wording was more formal than the face to face message and the words were chosen carefully in order to minimize misunderstanding (Portny, et al., 2008). Duthler (2006) posits that “electronic mail allows communicators more control over planning, composing, editing, and delivering messages than face-to-face communication” (p. 501). Duthler argues that this control might lead to communicators creating more polite speech. This explains why the content of the emails appears very polite. The precise and unambiguous nature of the message should further understanding (Laureate Education (Producer), n.d.).

Voicemail – vocalics and paralanguage communicate the urgency to provide the requested document. In my opinion, Jane sounds very mechanical on the recording. This is likely because when communicating via voicemail communicators can rehearse but cannot make changes to the message once recorded. This mechanical sound could be due to the dissonance between the plan and actual performance as well as the need to manage speech cues.

Face to face – Tone, pace and body language used in the face to face message gave me the impression that the message was not as urgent as the email and voicemail implied.

Which form of communication best conveyed the true meaning and intent of the message?

I had a hard time deciding which one method best conveyed the true meaning and intent of the message. I felt both the voicemail and email adequately conveyed the intended message. However, in actuality, I would perhaps first make contact via telephone or face to face then send an email to follow-up. Dr. Stolovitch suggests important communication is best delivered live (Laureate Education (Producer), n.d.). He further notes that these should be documented.

Lessons learn from this exercise

Communication is critical to the continued success of projects and other business activities. This activity highlighted how different media can be interpreted and misunderstood. The prevent misinterpretation of my communication I should utilize more than one medium. First I should always seek to communicate in person then use emails or other forms of formal written communication to document what was said and when (Laureate Education (Producer), n.d.).

References

Duthler, K. W. (2006). The politeness of requests made via email and voicemail: Support for the hyperpersonal model. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 11(2), 500-521.

Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Communicating with stakeholders [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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Project Post-Mortem: The Lessons Learned

As I thought through this assignment, I reached out to several colleagues, friends, and family and asked: “have you ever been on a project that failed”? Overwhelmingly the answer was “No”. This led me to clarify the definition of failure, then and only then did the responses start to differ. Given this experience, I will start by defining “project failure”. Mar (2012) defines project failure in five easy ways:

  1. Stakeholder’s views – did they believe the project failed?
  2. Delivery to plan – did the project meet time, budget and quality targets?
  3. On time delivery – was the project delivered on time?
  4. Financial results – did the project meet its projected results?
  5. Minimum return – did the project meet its ROI target?

If the answer to any of these five questions is yes, the project failed.

The project

Annually, as an investment in employee welfare the company plans a staff party or outing. The year in review the staff all decided they wanted an outing and so the social committee was gathered to make the plans. The team convened several meetings to get ideas together and issued a survey for the general staff to select locations from those the team identified. A significant number of the staff decided on a particular location, so the team started planning for that location. A date was identified, budget determined, action lists created, and tasks assigned. Planning went smoothly for the most part, but we had one major hick-up, the date for the outing was not widely communicated to the staff. As stakeholders in the project, they felt their needs were not considered, so several members of staff said they would boycott the outing. The social committee continued planning for the full staff complement which proved to be a good move. On the day of the outing majority of the team showed up and we were underway. From the committee’s standpoint, it was a great day. The buses arrived on time though our planned departure time was off by nearly 30 minutes, yet we got to the hotel on time. The hotel was well prepared for us. Food and beverage were served all day, and there were several activities in which the staff participated. We had an incident-free return to the office, and all staff members went home safely.

Post-mortem

A few days after the outing we issued a survey to the staff to get their feedback on the day and activities. During the post-mortem meeting, we discussed the survey and the highs and lows of the project. As expected majority of the staff felt communication was a problem, but what was the biggest surprise for the committee was that they all disliked the location and were disgruntled about the service received.

What went right?

The project was completed on time and under budget. Additionally, all necessary safety and risk precautions established by the company were observed

What went wrong?

The team operated based on the stakeholders’ choice. Because the majority of the staff decided on the location, the restrictions imposed by the hotel were ignored as the committee felt the staff ‘s choice should be honored. There was no site visit to the hotel because of budget constraints. Additionally, while there were persons assigned to various communication tasks, there was no clear communication plan. Updates were directed to the management team with brief discussions of the outing in staff meetings. A poster was placed on the noticeboard a week before the outing. However, the team planned the outing for the better part of 4 months.

The informal nature of this project led the team not to complete some of the traditional documentation found in a project, for example, a schedule of work and communication plan. Greer (2010) provides several templates that could be used by the team to address the shortcomings. Firstly a project communications planner (p. 34) could identify, the who, what, how, and when of communications and help the team to reach all stakeholders.  Additionally, the use of a responsibility matrix (p.12) would help the team to define who will be included in each activity. This would have helped to identify which tasks would be undertaken by who and all the players in the process.

Portny et al., (2008) explains that a project manager should determine why the organization selected the project (p. 13). In this particular case, the committee and committee head, acting in the capacity of project manager, should have identified why the staff selected the location they did.  In retrospect, we learned that they picked the hotel because it had a waterpark. However, the hotel had several excessive restrictions that prevented staff from really enjoying their stay. We could have accomplished the goal of getting the team to a waterpark with fewer restrictions by choosing another location. We did not take the time to investigate their choice and so had to plan other activities to make up for the failed trip.

References

Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/bbcswebdav/institution/USW1/201660_02/MS_INDT/EDUC_6145/Week%202/Resources/Week%202%20Resources/embedded/pm-minimalist-ver-3-laureate.pdf

Mar, A. (2012, November 14). 5 definitions of project failure. Retrieved from simplicable.com: http://management.simplicable.com/management/new/5-definitions-of-project-failure

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

EDUC 6145: Project Management in Education & Training

construction-909975_1280The instructional design journey continues, and so we pause at construction zone EDUC 6145 to fill our ID briefcase with project management knowledge and skills. The journey has been eventful. We’ve traveled some distance. Learning our foundations through research. We’ve contemplated the organization, its innovation, and change. Using multimedia we’ve examined the theories and instructions. We continue to work hard, pushing to achieve the goal. At the end of this journey lies our ultimate reward: advanced instructional design skills.