This week has been a big milestone in the transition back to on-site work for us. For the first time in over a year, I spent two days with a client and a vendor on-site working through requirements. It was a long couple of days, and at the end of it, one of the vendor consultants said, “In two days, we’ve got through two weeks worth of video calls.” We had all been quite impressed with how much content we managed to cover in the time we had together.
To me, it was a relief to feel effective again. Not that we’re putting the video call down, we have needed it over the pandemic, and we’ve had to use it—a lot.
But when we’re together in person, we’re able to get through so much more that I started to think about what it is that makes face to face so much better.
Communication: Face to face v Screen
The incidental interactions
An encounter walking past someone’s desk and saying hello, asking how their project was going evolved into a conversation about a possible change that might impact the project I’m leading and some progress on negotiations with a supplier. A five-minute hallway chat saved the fifteen minutes that would have been required via email.
Power of positive interruptions
Not all interrupting is rude, where people build on an idea together, often talking at the same time and making progress it can express the conversation and build momentum in a discussion. The ability that we have to understand one another is greatly enhanced by being in the same room. It’s not possible to interrupt positively via video because you need to wait until someone has finished speaking to contribute.
Greater focus in the room
The zoom zombie phenomenon is real. I find myself zoning out at times, especially if I’ve had multiple meetings and lots of time on screen in a day. It was refreshing to all share a screen where the work was and talk to that in real-time rather than gauge the team’s reactions and pay attention to the content.
The Critical Role of Communication in Projects
We know that the things that set up projects for success are actively engaged executive sponsors, deep end-user involvement from the beginning of the project, and clear requirements that sit alongside a plan of action. Overlay those foundation steps with effective communication, and your project becomes a better place to work where people feel understood. The research agrees, projects with effective communication are almost twice as likely to successfully deliver project scope and meet the quality standards than projects without effective communication. (PwC 15th Annual Global CEO survey, 2012).
Any change project requires communicating consistently about where we’re going, why we’re doing what we’re doing, and the expected benefits, and how we’re progressing towards the goals that we’ve set ourselves.
Why a project communication plan is important
Not everyone can have a face to face conversation for every part of the project. Nor is this required. In larger projects, a formal communication plan can help structure the conversation and workflow and ensure that you’ve not left anyone out.
At 6R we include a communication section in our starting workshops and part of the project plan details which communication methods we’ll use and how often we’ll update project stakeholders. We use this to help set expectations with the client and ensure that we’re communicating consistently throughout the project.
A communication plan plays an important role in every project by:
- Setting clear expectations on when updates will be shared by stakeholder group
- Increasing the visibility of the project and status,
- Providing opportunities for feedback to be shared,
- Building confidence through the project that even when things are not going well we’ll talk about it.
Project team communication methods
Your communication (and the plan) should include a variety of communication methods. Here are a few to consider:
- Email/ IM of some description (helpful when working across multiple organisations and timezones)
- Meetings (in-person, via screen or phone)
- Status reports and informal check-ins with different working streams
- Collaboration workspaces (boards, ticketing and documentation systems)
- To-do lists (shared of course)
- Surveys (it’s always good to get feedback)
So how do you know what’s right for your project?
Ask! Different businesses and people have various preferences. Talk to your team, client, and other stakeholders to ensure you add their communication methods and preferences into the plan. Make sure everyone is clear about what’s OK and what’s NOT OK.
This week was a great reminder about how much easier it is to communicate face-to-face. The nuances of body language, understanding how people interpret what’s said, whether or not there is an appropriate level of comprehension is all so much easier when people are in a room together. I won’t be ditching the video calls any time soon, but I just wanted to share the rediscovered pleasure of working together in person.
At 6R, we can work with you to improve and develop communication and project methods in your business, just get in touch.