I recently had the opportunity to attend a dinner celebrating the completion of a successful project. As a task oriented person I take great satisfaction in completing a project (I’m driven by my checklists), but project completion also means leaving something behind. With completion of this latest project, I am left with a void in my Tuesday afternoon schedule. What started ten months ago as a necessary weekly task with a group of strangers, has become an enjoyable check-in with a great team of people.
On the plane ride home, I began to reflect on this and other successful projects. The projects I recall as the most enjoyable and successful are the most challenging ones. The ones that made us work harder, faster, and that presented seemingly impossible challenges. What did they all have in common? How can I make sure that the next project will be just as rewarding and enjoyable?
For me, the answer is great communication. While there are many things to manage during a project, when I follow these 3 principles the rest of the project tends to fall into place. For each principle I have suggested a couple of ways that I have been able to accomplish this.
Confirmation/Documentation: Decisions, both large and small, are made throughout the project lifecycle. While the bigger decisions are typically officially documented, the smaller decisions made during weekly status meetings and impromptu conversations can potentially slip through the cracks.
Confirmation of these smaller decisions and project updates are critical to ensuring that all team members understand the current project status and their ongoing project responsibilities. Top training companies, like Allen, need to ensure that the team is on the same page about the project. Without a common understanding, misunderstandings can result in consequences for the project timeline, scope, and overall customer satisfaction.
Restate what you hear, even when you think you understand: A quick restatement of what you heard may highlight a critical gap in understanding. For team meetings, this practice gives you an opportunity to make sure that everyone on the team is in agreement before moving forward.
Review meeting notes: Preparing meeting notes (or minutes) to be distributed to all active team-members is a great practice, but if team members aren’t reviewing and confirming your documentation, a critical communication opportunity is missed.
Transparency: There will always be unexpected challenges during a project. The more transparent our communications, the better, faster, more cost efficient the path to project completion.
Communicate project priorities: One of the first questions I ask a client is “Which is the most critical to determine this project’s success – the project completion date, staying within budget, or keeping to scope? While everyone knows that these 3 pieces are related, it is helpful to think about them in the context of each specific project. If the timeline is decreased by a month, the budget or scope will likely need adjustment. Having an open discussion before any difficulties arise, will help build a foundation for open dialogue when you encountered an unexpected challenge.
Promptly communicate potential issues: As soon as a question, concern, or challenge arises, share it with team members. An unexpected challenge might be the result of an incorrect assumption or misunderstanding. Someone else might have anticipated this situation and have thought of a possible resolution. Highlighting an issue earlier will give you an opportunity to revise other parts of the project to accommodate any unexpected changes. The earlier you get the issue out in the open, the faster you will be able to address the source of the concern, and correct the problem.
Teamwork: No matter what your role on a project, everyone has the same goal – to develop something to be proud of, on time, and within budget. When I look back on my greatest successes, they were the result of the team coming together to find creative solutions to difficult problems.
Identify your resources: Everyone brings their own unique perspective to a project. It’s important to identify each member’s strengths and ambitions early on, to capitalize on what’s available to you. Make sure to identify all team members early, and ensure they are included during appropriate development phases. You don’t want to introduce a critical subject matter expert during your final review.
Don’t be afraid to brainstorm – and have a little fun: True brainstorming brings BOTH great and not-so-great ideas to the surface. Don’t set limits on a brainstorming session. Some of the best solutions to come out of brainstorming start from the wildest ideas. You never know what might “spark” that great solution. Promoting a safe and creative environment helps everyone on the team let their guard down a little and remember that we are all in this together. When you come up with a creative solution together, everyone gets to feel a sense of ownership and pride in the solution.
Every project has its own unique set of challenges, but there’s a direct correlation between great team communication and project success. Whether committing to a project for 2 months or 12 months, I want every team member to reach project completion with a sense of pride and accomplishment. By fostering an environment with open communication you’ll find yourself developing meaningful connections with team members, colleagues and clients. And who knows, you might even have a little fun in the process!