Distance Education

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Communicating Effectively

      “What we see and hear from each other is only the tip of the iceberg. Lying underneath the waterline of our words and actions is a much fuller, richer set of information”.  Strider, (2002) Communication in project management cannot be overemphasized.  In general, people communicate through a variety of means but are the communication effective?  Projects are conceived with excellent plan, hoping for a desired outcome often fails, because of inappropriate communication strategies.  This blog discusses a piece of communication in various modalities. 

How did your interpretation of the message change from one modality to the next?

As an Email (written Text).
The email is direct. The message implies Jane, pleading to Mark to get his part of the project done to enable her move forward.  She appears desperate, by the choice words used to request for the report, but failed to mention exactly when she needs the report. As noted by Stolovitch, (n.d.) “Effective communication is influenced by the spirit and attitude, tonality and body language, timing and personality of the recipient”.  Though, the email was a written text, it was obvious to note the spirit and attitude of the writer. 

As a Voice Message (Audio)
This voice message presented an interesting version of the message. The speaker voice was cautious, calm and directly expressed purpose of the communication. The voice reflected a friendly   reminder to Mark about the ETA report. The voice message reflected a level of familiarities between the speaker and the receiver. The speaker (Jane) knew Mark’s schedule,  and was considerate by referring to his busy day, somewhat empathizing with him,  and hoping that Mark could find some time to get  back to the much needed report. 

As a face-2-face communication (Video cast)

During the f2f conversation, the presence of the speaker made a difference in the way I received the message. Looking at her face, listening to her, reading her facial expression, her lips movement, the tone of her voice impacted the way I received the message. Though, she was demanding an answer, she was respectful and ended her conversation with a smile. Depending on the relationship between the two parties the smile could be identified as a heartening gesture, or could be a distracter. Stolovitch, (n.d) cautions on communicators “to avoid ambiguity” This may be perceived as lack of seriousness in the content of the message. 

What factors influenced how you perceived the message?

Judging from what I wrote earlier on the written text, and what just occurred in the voice message, and f2f communication, the speaker in all the scenarios is attempting to get work done and get results. She may need to use the approach described by   Budrovich (n.d) “Tailor your communication strategy to fit the specific needs of each stakeholder”.   In reality, I do not think that the speaker should use all the three or more methods to get her point across. Instead, her ability to recognize Mark’s communication preference will make it easy to tailor her communication to get the outcome.
Other factors that of influence how a message is perceived are   values, noise, perception, encoding, beliefs, decoding, length of conversation, repetition, past experiences and expectations. This could occur both ways.  Considering cultural backgrounds when communicating during a project is an important factor nowadays, due to technological advancement, and diversity in the workplace.
Which form of communication best conveyed the true meaning and intent of the message?

 This is a subjective question, because as learner’s we are motivated to react to a piece of the information base on a number of reasons.  One major gap is that people have different preferences and approaches to “what constitute effective communication”. For example, being an auditory, visual or kinesthetic learner may influence your perception, orientation to details and what you want in a communication. This is because; different channels of information could determine the strengths and weaknesses of communication in question.
In the sample, provided f2f (video cast) communication seems to make the most sense in my opinion.  Knowing that Mark is extremely busy with other responsibilities, there is a possibility Mark might not check his voice message. Considering the email, Mark might not be at his desk to read it.  Going to Mark and discussing the need as demonstrated in the video cast could increase the possibility of getting an answer sooner. If the two have a positive working relationship, it works even better.

What are the implications of what you learned from this exercise for communicating effectively with members of a project team? 

Communication must be planned, coordinated, managed and reported between the team and the project leader. When working on any project, each member is responsible to, and accountable for discussing the progress of the project to other members as assigned. Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, and Kramer. (2008) Noted that “PM should consider providing project progress reports to supervisors, upper management, the client or customer, project team members, others who are helping on the project, and others who are affected by the project results.”
In organization setting, communication takes different shapes and forms.  Stolovitch, (n.d) states that standard of communication with clients should address the following;
Response to time frames.
Form of oral / written communication.
Establish rules of participation and
Avoid an ambiguity.
Be precise.
Document everything.
As I process the instruction in the exercise” The Art of Effective Communication’ I recognized that some of my responses is based on my own perception, limitation, and assumptions.  To succeed in any projects, all the assumptions and constrained must be discussed prior to or as situation arises.  Portny et.al. (2008) States that “PM must consider project assumptions when they develop their project risk management plan.”

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008).  
            Project Management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects.
            Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley &  Sons, Inc.
Laureate Education, Inc. (n.d.). Project Management Concerns: Communication Strategies and
Organizational Culture [Video B]. Laureate Education, Inc. [Producer]. Retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=6052000&Survey=1&47=7840074&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=1&bhcp=1.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Learning from a Project “Post-mortem”

I recalled a team project titled “Training Steering Committee” This event took place at work about four years ago.  The memory lived with me till today. Little did I know about IDT/ PM at that time? The idea was brilliant. It was initiated by the Director of training, my supervisor.  The purpose was to “Change the organization” by doing the following.
a. Develop adjunct facilitator’s for recurrent training due to agency expansion.
b. Revise agency orientation for new hires.
c. Revise existing and create a new agency policy on training.
d. Develop advance courses for clinical professional s in the organization.

 The director identified samples of employees from across the entire organization for representation. The response was quite compelling at the first few meetings, but the director did not use a Project Management approach. Murphy, (1994). The benefit of using a formal project a management approach is that needed expertise within the corporation can be identified and allocated to ensure that project accomplishes its goals”. 

The director consulted with the agency CEO, who was in support of the project, but the director failed to notify his immediate supervisor, director of Human Resources who holds the ultimate decision about the project.  The identified members were notified. There was an elaborate kick off meeting. At the meeting, the members were presented with the purpose of the gathering. The members were pleased to be part of the needed change.

       During the meeting, members volunteered to function as leaders and supporters of the sub groups. Other employees present were unwilling to participate because they were unsure about the need for all the work to be done. Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, and Kramer (2008) state “the project manager must take the initiative to figure out what the real needs are”. In addition, the leader should be able to explain the origin of the need. Not just an intention to change the organization. The rest of the meeting turned to an opportunity to praise the leader of the project for the brilliant ideas. 

There were four different sub-groups representing the four purposes of the committee. Each of them was assigned to work on the subtitles and produce a procedure, a policy, a new curriculum at the end of the project.  The details of the deliverables, timelines, and outcomes were discussed by each sub group at subsequent meetings as that was not discussed at the kick off meeting.  Level of commitment was vague after the first general meeting. The resulted in role changes from one meeting to the other.
 In some meetings, the number of employees in attendance determines the assigned roles.  The process became a nightmare.  Meanwhile, there was no statement of work from each of the assigned subgroup.  The work breakdown was created as seen feasible by each group. They group were not reporting to anyone for supervision during the work stages.  At the end of the project, a lot of unpredictable troubled challenges emerged.
  •  Members of this committee were being penalized for abandoning their primary responsibilities because the idea was not presented for approval in the first place. Greer (2010) States “the project manager must define the project concept clearly enough so that he can get support from the key people in the organization”.
  •  A number of documents were developed i.e. Adjunct facilitator’s process. Revised agency orientation, training policies, and couple advanced curriculum were developed by personnel with no IDT skills. None of the draft documents was approved.
  • The committee was informed that no single committee can create or revise agency policies without formal approval of the board members. According to Suchan, J. (2007). “Ability to get buy-ins from the entire stakeholder will help you accomplish the project goals by reducing project cycle, and streamline the approval process”.
  • The Project leader was asked to dissolve the project and the members. Portny, et. al., (2008) identified three basic activities in project management. Planning, Organizing, and controlling. With what I know today, I cannot recall a serious level of planning during the process. It was an excellent thought, and he sped to action which ultimately ended in lack of implementation.
  •  The project had a kick off meeting, but the meeting did not spell out the roles and responsibilities, clarify deliverable and time lines, identify members commitment. The project was ongoing for about two years before it ended.
At the time of this event, I was new to the organization. Because of my role, I have less knowledge about the procedures of operation, though; I was in support of my director of training.  Based on what I have learned in the previous courses about organization leadership, functions and operation, I know that the director took a number of personal decisions because he has worked there longer, he has very excellent people skills,  and could persuade his peers to see things his way. I will also like to add that, the procedures of initiating an idea were not clearly stated as what we have now.

Some positives  
The process was an eye opener for the organization. From the crooked foundation laid by the director of training, the organization experienced major expansion in the past two years. Some of the ideas generated by the committee are currently revised, and presented to initiate the change process.

The director was able to create a strong, cohesive team to work on the project, but the communication amongst the team was ineffective because of lack of supervision. 

The agency will start a new hire orientation curriculum in January 2012
There are 39 adjunct facilitators across the organization. I am currently leading the project on adjuncts.
Currently the organization have  policy and procedure committee that are devoted to revising old policies and create new ones as needed based on Medicaid/Medicare funding.
Employees in need of advance courses or CEU’s credits are being supported to accomplish the goals outside of the organization. 

Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (LaureateCustom Ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.
Murphy, C. (1994). Utilizing project management techniques in the design of instructional materials.Performance & Instruction, 33(3), 9–11.
Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008).   Project Management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley &
 Sons, Inc.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Project Management EDUC 6145

Hello Class: Welcome to my Project Management Blog. I look forward to learn with all of you.
Have fun.