Recently my colleague Jamie discussed the importance of a solid comms strategy. We thought it might be helpful to detail what obstacles you might come up against during the execution of this strategy,
To mitigate the possible obstacles, it’s crucial to understand how groups you work with interface or work with each other. Some standard interfaces are:
Amid organizations- for example, different agencies
Between departments within an organization, such as IT and the Clerk’s Office
In between teams in a department, such as records managers and clerk staff
Among distributed teams- for instance, business analysts who report to IT but work in/with the City Clerk’s Office
In the middle of organizational layers, for example, department heads and executives
Generally, the obstacles to comms that occur between the above groups can be boiled down to three:
Political and Hierarchical- Inevitably, it’s human nature that power, vested interests, and bias can get in the way of dialogue whenever there are groups. Frequently, these impediments can exist in the organization's upper ranks and usually above where the project was planned. This is why it is critical to get executive sponsorship and buy-in for projects, and that project managers identify those who have influence that they may or not want to use to derail things. It can be easy to miss a functional manager who isn’t a prominent stakeholder. Once exposed, project managers need to gain their confidence. If you are tempted to go above the manager’s head, fair warning; this usually makes things more difficult.
Culture- Organizational culture can affect the types and manner of project comms. For instance, one can expect differences of opinion at a joint project planning session involving a very advanced IT department and a more business-focused building and planning department. Project managers can relieve such difficulties by understanding the difference in attitudes and goals between the parties involved and then acting as intermediaries to facilitate communication. Localization of comms has become increasingly important as teams work from diverse geographies, where there could be differences in attitudes and behaviors. Once again, the project manager should be aware of the issues and mitigate them in project communications.
Terminology and vocabulary- When you are elbows deep in an IT project, it’s easy to forget that departments can speak different languages―while the ultimate goal may be the same. Laserfiche Founder Nien-Ling Wacker used to deliver a speech called “Records Managers Are from Venus, and IT Staff Are from Mars.” which was highly effective. Its message is that when specialists from diverse areas meet, there is a tendency for each side to misunderstand and make assumptions about one another’s jargon, which can lead to misunderstandings and miscommunication. Many project managers use a readily available FAQ or Terminology List hosted on a wiki or intranet to get project participants on the same page.
For our next post, we’ll cover using the journalistic who, what, when, where, why, and how, to develop project content.