February 19, 2009

Brief tip 4: Communicate early, communicate often

This tip is simply:

You can never communicate too much as a project manager

You should communicate clearly, often and repeat important messages even after you think everyone knows every little detail of it. They don’t. This is not because they are lazy or forget easily, it is just that most often they have not had the information internalized through lengthy discussions or working on the issue for a long time.

When the first members of the team smiles ironically when you repeat the message, you are not even half way through. When team starts to make jokes or even parodies of your most repeated messages, I would argue you are probably about three-quarters through getting a message out to everyone that will be sticky.

I also believe in sharing whatever information you have with the team early, even if you are still waiting for a conclusion of an external discussion. Even if one can argue that this can be confusing for the team sometimes, I feel it builds trust. Also, you avoid running into situations where you are unsure what you can say based on what you have said before. If you don’t do it, you will sometime have to make priorities that are hard to understand for the team. So I think saying “this is all that I currently know and I will share it now” is usually the best way of handling it.

This philosophy plays well with a notion of involving the team in decisions and to be able to make rapid adjustments of direction. You can formulate the principle of over-communication as a virtue the way I do in the title of this post: Communicate early, communicate often. As an added bonus, a little word play back to one of the principles of agile software development. :-)

That was my tip #4. If you don’t agree or would have ranked it differently, please leave a comment.