Modes of Communication: When reading between the lines gets blurry

This assignment called for us to observe an instance of communication through 3 different modalities; email, voicemail and face-to-face.  The following are my observations regarding each of the attempts at communication:

Email:
It seemed that I was sensing panic and impatience from Jane but I also sensed that she was making an effort not to sound too alarming and accusatory.  However she did sound mildly irritated.  Her email left me wondering; Did she copy others on this email in an effort to drum up charges against Mark’s work? Could this email be used in a smear campaign?

Voicemail:
The voicemail came across as more of a personal touch.  I sensed Jane’s concern and anxiety over the missing pieces she needed to complete her own work but in hearing her voice it wasn’t overtly confrontational or accusatory.  Still there was room for doubt.  Was she angry but just exercising restraint?  Is she gearing up to make Mark look bad? 

Face-to-face:
There was more warmth conveyed in the message. It was clear that Jane wasn’t to the point of anger or  irritability but she was extending her co-worker the professional courtesy of interfacing with them to voice her concerns over his adherence to the timeline.

This exercise confirmed my suspicion that despite your best effort to craft the pitch perfect email it can really never go over as well as an audio or visual interaction–preferably face to face.  In the professional realm, my preferred mode of communication is email because it allows me to get messages quickly to multiple people…that and I like the idea of having a paper trail documenting any exchanges.  This activity has helped me realize that I need to be more open to face-to-face exchanges and employ them wherever possible as it decreases the chance of things getting lost in translation.

 

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Lessons learned from a project post-mortem.

I was a team-member for a project which my organization would under-take annually.  The planning and preparation for the “go live” date would generally start in earnest 4 months out from the event (I frequently submitted that it should be more like 6 months out but it fell on deaf ears).  The project is a fund raising event and the team includes a marketing and PR person, a volunteer manager, a fund and resource development person, SMEs who contribute as advisers/consultants and the Executive Director/project manager.  The fund raising event in question was a success in some senses–feedback we received from the public was glowing and favorable.  But it was a failure in some respects; we fell a shy of our fund raising goal and we failed to fine tune some of the processes that we intended to pay close attention to that time around.  The timeline was just too cramped and left no room for iterative development, just full steam ahead even if the process wasn’t airtight.

What contributed to the success was the team’s awareness that presenting a united and polished front to the public was paramount.  Even if there were holes in the roll-out (i.e. one sponsor’s logo wasn’t included on the t-shirt, we under-shot the amount of shirts needed and had to send some participants shirts after the fact) we worked over-time to make sure that the good experiences outweighed the bad and everyone had a good time.

One thing that contributed to the failure was that we did not devote enough time to the planning of the event.  It was the 8th year of the event and the PM felt like some processes could be skipped and were on autopilot but that kind of thinking led to re-work, rushing and oversights.   I think back on the questions from the Project Management Minimalist and one really resonated with me because it is centered around an assertion that I (and several other team-members) put forth early on in the conception phase–we need to bring in another team-member, an event planner because the PM was inundated and distracted with the wearing of that particular hat.  Question #5  of the post-mortem review asks “could we have completed this project without one or more of our vendors/contractors? If so, how?” (Greer, 2010, p. 43).   In my opinion we definitely didn’t have any fat to trim but we desperately needed to consider adding a member to the team.

The Summary & Checklist: 10 steps to project success (Greer, p. 45) lists “Estimate time, effort, and resources” as the 5th step.   A more careful and comprehensive discussion  around these items would have undoubtedly made the project more successful as it would’ve beeen made clear that we needed more time and we needed to acquire other resources (event planner) so that the PM could have the support in that area and not be the only accountable.

Reference:

Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.