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5 Ways to Improve Communication On Your Team

A few months ago, I had the privilege to interview Peter Doolan, Group Vice President, Chief Technologist, Oracle Public Sector. Our interview was part of the Big Data Industry Perspective, in which Peter shared some of his expert insights on big data. One of his comments is worth exploring deeper, as it crosses all sectors and is an important lesson learned for project managers. Peter stated:

“I have seen so many projects fail, not because of technology, the project failed because of the inability for IT professionals to explain and communicate their capabilities to the business side, and for the business to communicate back to the IT side, stating their needs and requirements to have a tangible impact on the outcome.” Like with any project, identifying a shared problem, and working towards a common vision is critical for big data programs.”

Peter is keying into a lot of the reasons why projects fail, or eventually plateau and fail to fully leverage all the promised benefits. It all starts with communication between teams.

Communication is such a critical component of what we do. Understandably, communication and human behavior is one of the most complex and mysterious aspects of the workplace. Nonetheless, working towards improved communication with your team is critical. Whether it is through a new process, use of program management software, or a re-framing of team meetings, effective communication is at the heart of project management. This is the case if you are running a social media campaign, consolidating a data center, developing a new website, managing a federal contract, and also includes all the incredible programs being run by government employees.

In order to communicate effectively, as Peter identifies, there are some basic starting points. As a project manager, not only are you building a process to capitalize on your resources and develop a product, you are also building in structures as to how the team will communicate. It’s important to remember that a team functions best when the process, personal working styles and goals align. This is why planning upfront is so important.

Below are five questions to get you started and some suggestions on how to best improve communication among your team. As usual, I’d love to get your feedback and hear strategies you have implemented.

1 – Have I communicated the new value this project creates or what problem it solves?

In order to build support across teams, a project manager must show how the project will provide a mutual benefit and the positive value of the project for all stakeholders. If anyone on your team is thinking or asks, “Why are we doing this?” you need to examine how the project has been presented and the intended outcomes. The value, outputs and goals of the project need to be clearly articulated in a way that hits home for all team members, and empowers them to act on behalf of the team.

2 – Does this project fit into our mission needs?

The distinction between an innovative idea and great idea is that an innovative idea solves an organizational need. A great idea is something that would be cool to do, but is usually on an organization's wish list. As a project manager and communicator, the project needs to fall within the scope of your organization's mission. As an employee, think about how frustrating it is to be working on projects that you are keenly aware that produce little to no value, as a project manager, be sure to clearly articulate how the project fills a mission need, and fits into the scope of your organization. With limited time and resources, it is critical that agencies take a laser like focus on projects that will give them the most bang for their buck.

3 – Do we possess the resources (time and labor) to complete this project and how do we allocate limited resources?

This is always tricky, and for organizations to really communicate, resource needs must be fully addressed. Understanding how to build a staff and knowing what resources you will need is essential. The only way to do this is to fully communicate across your team, derive answers from their expertise, and work towards a project plan. A project plan will clearly articulate responsibilities and who is accountable for certain aspects of the program.

4 – Has this been done before?

Chances are, the answer is yes, and chances are, you can find some examples on the internet. Connect with people who have done similar projects, this will help you tremendously and you will find new ways to effectively communicate with your team. If you are running into roadblocks communicating with the business side of the house or the IT side, go out and find someone who has done a similar project, and talk through the challenges. This will prepare you for future conversations with your team, and make you well informed of the challenges.

5 – Have I engaged all the key stakeholders for input?

One of the most important parts of projects, and fueling proper communications is that everyone needs to feel a sense of ownership. Allow people engage early in the process to provide input to their needs, what they want and how to get there. Involving people late in a project presents challenges for the team. Be direct up front with what roles and responsibilities will be.

Once the project has been completed, it is so important to always iterate and improve from the teams experience. Circling back with teammates after a project and asking how to improve the process is critical. If you are a team that has just started working together, this is important to learn how people operate and truly understand their working styles. Being a great communicator takes time and patience, and often has some bumps in the road. Investing time to learn more about your team and how to maximize your projects to exceed team goals is a great trait to have. People may have divergent views or perspectives, but the important message to always send as a project manager is that you are all aligned to a common objective, excelling for the agency and organization.

Oracle offers an optimized and fully integrated stack of business hardware and software systems that helps organizations overcome complexity and unleash innovation.. Check out their Optimize with Oracle group on GovLoop as well as the Technology Sub-Community of which they are a council member.

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