Communicating Effectively

For this week’s blog assignment, I am interpreting a message delivered by three different methods of communication: email, voicemail, and face-to-face from the multimedia program, “The Art of Effective Communication” (Laureate Education, n.d.). While the same message is delivered each time, its tone and meaning is noticeably different with each delivery. The image below displays a copy of the message text.
Communicate Effectively

Email

Voicemail

Face-to-Face

In this method of delivery, Jane   sends an email message to Mark, requesting a missing report. I read this message three times before I was able to grasp its meaning. Its tone is informal and vague; and without specific date and time sensitive deadlines. The sentence structure is complicated. The use of abbreviations/acronyms in   written text, such as the one used in this example, ETA, should be discouraged because the project manager may   believe ETA means one thing such as estimated time of arrival, and another person may believe it means something else. When I listened to the voicemail version of the same message, I was immediately impressed by the female voice. Her tone of voice was pleasant, calm, and non-threatening. She effectively   used breathing techniques to pause briefly between sentences and phrases, resulting in a well- articulated message. Despite these enhancements, the content of the message remains informal and vague, and without specific date and time sensitive deadlines. The sentence structure remains complicated. While the   abbreviation ETA is used in this example, for some reason it was less noticeable by me. In the third example, the female shares the same information as in the other two delivery methods, requesting Mark to send her a missing report. She is observed to be leaning over a cubicle wall to talk to Mark, with her non-verbal body language leading Mark to believe the conversation is informal and there is no rush in providing the requested report. While her tone of voice is pleasant, calm, and non-threatening, she enunciates her words in a manner that causes some of the words to be drawn out and having extra emphasis where in a normal conversation this would not happen.

For me personally, I found the second method of delivery, voicemail, best conveyed the true meaning and intent of the message. This exercise demonstrates that the same words can be interpreted in three different ways based on its delivery method and the audience receiving the message. When functioning as a project manager and communicating with the project team, I need to carefully choose the delivery method based on the team members receiving the message. Stated another way, it is “sharing the right messages with the right people in a timely manner” (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008, p. 357).

Here are a few strategies and tools which can be utilized to communicate more effectively with other people involved in project management activities.

  • Project Dashboards: A project management tool used to provide up-to-date information for a project. For example, a brightly colored stop light with red, yellow and green symbols. Green indicates the project is in good shape; yellow indicates the project requires attention; and red indicates the project is in critical condition (Mind Tools, 2013).
  • Project Milestone Reporting: The project manager can utilize a Project Milestone Report to show team members the tasks which have been completed and the tasks still needing to be done according to the timeline in the project plan (Mind Tools, 2013).
  • Keep Repeating the Message but in a Different Format Each Time: According to Chiu (2012, p. 43), the project manager should keep repeating the same message to compensate for the brain’s 20% information absorption rate. To minimize repetition, Chiu (2012, p. 43) recommends putting it in a different format each time. For example, a safety banner, an agenda item for the project meetings, a certificate for a safety award, provides verbal reminders about working safely, or schedule a free safety lunch.
  • Use Both Active and Passive Methods of Communication: It is recommended, the communication strategy determined during the project planning stage should include both active and passive communication methods (Project Management Communication, 2013). Examples of Active communication include face-to-face meetings, video conference, one-on-one meetings, telephone conference, webinars, and stand up presentations (Project Management Communication, 2013, p. 5). Passive communication methods include these examples: pod cast, web cast, email, Intranet bulletin boards, Blogs, Websites, and a project newsletter (Communication, 2013, p. 6).

References:

Chiu, A. (2012). Ten tips for smart project managers. Chemical Engineering, 119 (1), 40-43. Retrieved from http://ezp.waldenulibrary.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=70327788&scope=site

Laureate Education (n. d.). The art of effective communication. Retrieved from http://mym.cdn.laureate-media.com/2dett4d/Walden/EDUC/6145/03/mm/aoc/index.html

Mind Tools (2013, March 21). Project dashboards: quickly communicating project progress. Retrieve from http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/new PPM_92.htm

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.

Project Management Communication (2013, March 21). Project management communication – perfection eludes us… Retrieved from http://www.successful-project-management.com/project-management-communication.html

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Penny,

    I was glad to see I was not alone in having to read the email communication multiple times! While the sentence structure was the same, the voicemail made it much more clear with the intonation and appropriate pauses.

    I like your mentioning of Project Dashboards. I have never heard of these. Have you ever used one or seen one implemented? Is it in a central location somewhere that everyone can see? Who is allowed to make updates to it? Only the PM or anyone involved in the project?

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    Renee

    Reply

  2. Posted by Marta on March 24, 2013 at 8:52 am

    Hi Penny,

    Excellent analysis. The ETA acronym was also troubling to me. As you pointed out it could have different meaning to different people-and therefore should be spelled out. In Principles of Project Management, (Adams, 1997) notes that the process of communication “involves more than the transmittal of facts; it means that each person understands the intent and real meaning of the information being transferred.” My analysis in this case is that the message does not convey the urgency or the exact report that is being requested. As Mark, I would not have understood the request clearly nor would I have thought it urgent. The assumption is however, that Mark would follow up with questions to clarify the request.

    Great post as always.

    Marta

    Reference

    Adams, J. (1997). Principles of Project Management. Collected Handbooks From The Project Management Institute. (p. 143). Project Management Institute, Inc. Newton Square: PA

    Reply

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