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Dec24

Keeping Project-Related Communication from Getting Out of Hand


Whenever a big project is underway, the amount of communication that you’ll receive regarding that project will spike. Unfortunately, this isn’t an all at once affair. You may end up, for example, getting a flood of e-mail from the programming department if they’re debugging, but not hear anything from the graphic design department until a project is being finalized and branded. This tends to create a rather unpleasant, very disorganized situation.

For people tracking more than one project, or who have a role in more than one project, this flood of communications can become unmanageable and, even though various people involved in a project may be working very hard to keep the lines of communication open, it may all just become a cacophony. This can cause problems such as:

  • Emails about the same project that aren’t consistently identified as such.
  • Two or more people receiving different answers to the same question.
  • Lost information or information that is never read.
  • Frustration and a breakdown of communication.

If the lines of communication are open, one of the most important factors in having a successful project has already been realized. The next step is to be sure that those lines of communication are managed properly.

Set Aside the Time for Responding to Questions

An article in Psychology Today gives some very useful advice about managing emails that applies to all communication. The first step in keeping it organized is to set aside a time when you’ll deal with it and commit to answering questions during that time.

This allows you to do two things. First, you have enough time to go through each of the communications related to the project, whether they be e-mails, posts on a shared intranet site or something else, and answer them coherently. This avoids sending off hasty emails that may create more questions than they answer.

Second, this method allows you to let others involved in the project know when they can expect to receive and answer. It’s an easy way to make sure that no one involved in a project is sitting around, getting frustrated while they wait for an answer. If they know, for instance, that emails are replied to between 2pm and 3pm, they’ll know when to expect a reply and won’t spend their whole morning waiting around for it.

Come Up with an Urgency Indicator

One way to make sure that important communications get prioritized is to come up with an urgency indicator. This simply means coming up with some established way of letting someone receiving communications know that whatever was sent needs to be read immediately. This can be as simple as adding “URGENT” to an email subject line, which lets anyone getting it know that it’s not a small detail that’s being dealt with.

The Unavoidable Pitfall

Email and most other forms of communication used within and between businesses are not designed to be attached to a particular project. When they become the most common way that people communicate about a project, email oftentimes causes more trouble than it solves. Voicemail is even worse in this regard, as it requires the listener to take down notes or to just try to remember something they’ve been told, which is easier said than done. It also removes the communication sent from the entire team, which means that the information, for all intents and purposes, is compartmentalized.

Using software that is specifically designed to track projects is generally a better option and, where communication is concerned, there are specific reasons why.

Time Lines

Email, voicemail and other forms of communication oftentimes used for projects do not follow the project as it progresses. For example, between several different emails about the same project, there will likely be others that have nothing to do with it. This creates a mess. An email that may have explained, for instance, why one phase of a project went 2 hours over schedule and needs to be billed accordingly may be lost in a box full of unrelated communications.

By using software that is designed to track projects, this can be avoided. Having a timeline for the project on which information can be stored is invaluable. This way, when something changes or there are simply notes that need to be conveyed about something, that information is tied directly to the project and when it was sent is easy to determine. This ensure that communication does get through and that it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.

Standardization

Using software that is designed to track projects is also beneficial in terms of standardization. With all of the information being entered into the same system, there’s no discrepancy in format, in what information is contained in communications and so forth. This simply makes everything more comprehensive and ensures that someone’s personal style of communicating doesn’t bury their message or make it unclear.

Setting Up a System

A good communication system for a project needs to be established from the start. Everyone needs to be on the same page and any and all communication related to a project needs to be done through the agreed upon system in the agreed upon way. When such a plan is implemented and adhered to, it ensures that everyone gets the information that they need and that unnecessary frustrations are minimized or eliminated altogether.

Email, voicemail and even instant messaging are still standard forms of communication in the business world. Unfortunately, they oftentimes result in fragmented communications that make it harder to understand what’s going on with a project and why. By using a system that is designed specifically to help businesses track the progress of projects, it’s possible to increase productivity, decrease costs and, therefore, to increase profit at the end.

Rather than using many different, and separate, forms of communication to track a project, consider using a product that’s purpose-built for the task. This will always yield the best possible results and ensure that time is managed and productive rather than wasted.

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