“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” - Hans Hofmann
Have you ever had to recover from a misunderstanding? Some of the greatest challenges I’ve experienced originated from a simple lack of understanding. We’ve all seen examples: projects with clear expectations tend to race towards success, and projects full of surprises tend to struggle along.
If so many past examples exist, then why do we keep running into the same issues again and again? How do we get communication back on track with our customers, our vendors, or our very own team?
Have Purposeful Meetings
- The Kickoff: I can’t begin to express how a kickoff meeting can make or break a project. Whether with your internal team or your client, a kickoff meeting helps provide scope clarity, schedule confidence, and an early start for other important conversation.
- The Weekly Call: These quick touchpoints are crucial for keeping a project healthy and stakeholders happy. Although short, weekly calls can help keep everyone on the same page. The frequency can also keep teams reactive to the latest developments.
- The Site Update: In my industry, we have in-office development and onsite execution. Maintaining a good pulse on site progress is extremely important. We aim to have our subcontractors and team members provide weekly or bi-weekly updates. Pictures, redlines, and progress checklists constantly flow from our sites to help ensure a clear picture of project health.
Maintain Clear Communication
- Short Descriptions: Have you ever seen an email that was over four paragraphs long? Were you excited to dig through all of those words? I suspect not. Let’s be concise with our thoughts; otherwise, no one may ever read them. The K.I.S.S. principle highlights the importance of keeping things simple. I encourage you to read more on it.
- Ambiguity Kills: You’re in a meeting and have the floor. You’re excited to show everyone your latest presentation. After twenty minutes of only talking, you look around and everyone’s eyes are glazed over. Keep the purpose concise, descriptions to the point, and the intended results clear.
- Clear Expectations: Have you ever left a discussion not understanding what was next? If you find yourself unsure that everyone is on the same page, kindly ask them to repeat back their understanding of the topic. That’s a quick way to ensure there are no misunderstandings.
- Face-to-Face Discussion: We are gracious when a person accidentally cuts us off with their cart at the grocery store. We’re a menace if that same person does it in their car during traffic. Removing a face or voice can remove the humanity entirely. During a tough situation, make a quick call first before blasting off that email. It could help an unnerving predicament go a lot smoother.
Try Tidying Up
Communication should be clean and tidy. I’ve learned the hard way that being unclear, ambiguous, or over descriptive doesn't benefit anyone. So let’s give the above pointers a shot. Try getting rid of a few superfluous meetings, and try adding a few intentional ones. Try removing those few extra sentences, and try honing your intention. You might be surprised at the impact it could make.
As always, feel free to comment with your own thoughts and suggestions. What communication habits have been helpful in your career?
Austin Studebaker is a Team Lead at Spring Automation and a writer at Balance: The Narrative.
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