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.


  1. Folashade,

    As you quoted, making sure to tailor your message to your audience is key to communication. When considering the face-to-face conversation, I considered the speaker to be sincere and more comforting, but Kiersten and you saw the smile at the end to be a distraction or even fake. We all came to a similar conclusion about the email conveying more of a sense of urgency then the rest of the modalities.

    From a sample of three, it appears that email is the most effective for conveying information. This doesn’t mean that email is the best communicator, it just means that the face-to-face conversation has the potential for other messages to come across since so much of what is heard is not in the words.

    Through my post and reading through Kiersten and yours, it shows to me how important having a strong working relationship with team members is. Knowing how to communicate in each of the modalities should be tailored to the individual you are talking to, not based on your personal preferences.


  2. I’ve found a couple of classmates (Kiersten & you) have mentioned the lack of a deadline in the email, and I have to agree. I didn’t include that in my observation, but it’s definitely something that is lacking in the email. I get annoyed when someone asks me for something and doesn’t give me a timeframe so that I can prioritize properly. I guess I assumed she had asked for this data from Mark before, based on how she worded her communication to Mark. But she might have also not included a deadline in that original communication, hence why she is still not receiving the data because Mark doesn’t understand she needs it like…yesterday.

    You also mentioned that Jane’s “ability to recognize Mark’s communication preference will make it easy to tailor her communication to get the outcome.” I think you’re right on with that observation. I feel the morale of this week’s blog lesson was to realize that many of us perceive various types of communication differently, and that we need to keep that in mind as we communicate with team members. Our personal preference does not indicate that others share that preference or interpret messages the same way.

    Great post!

  3. Hi Folashade

    I'm glad to hear you comment on the idea of tailoring a message to fit the stakeholder. If we want something from someone, we have to acknowledge the individual and his value to the project, and we have to consdier where the stakeholder might be coming from. If we don't consider the person as an individual but simply minimize the worth of our message to nothing more than blaming or barking orders, the message is not going to be received in a way that will produce the result we are trying to effect.

    I'm now at a school that is very big on communicating via e-mail. At times e-mail may be the most efficient, but it seems then that there also must be periods of live communication. When I have a need, I'm still old-fashioned enough to go to the person directly to inquire and then inform or request.

    So I'm glad your post brings out the importance of fashioning our communication - in any form - to reflect that we're "talking" with a person.

  4. Hi Folashade,

    You mentioned how considerate Jane was toward Mark and that she knew his schedule but failed to include her deadline in the message. She may have knowledge that he too is aware of her timeline (eg. a linear responsibilty matrix). I have often done the same because putting my deadline down allows someone to determine a suitable time for them to respond and more than likely it will be later than I need. By allowing him to give me his ETA, I can make plans. If Mark does not respond or if he gives me a time that is too close to my own dealine then I can ask the project manager or my supervisor for an extension based on my or Mark's follow up email.

    It is important to consider how encoded beliefs, cultural background, past experiences and learning stlyes impact effective communication. For example, I am left- handed and as a result of right minded thinking, I listen to words and tend to pick up on emotions based on tone. Furthermore, effective communication means being aware of and willing to abandon your assumptions.

    Great Post!


  5. Your post is quite insightful. It reminds me of lots of things about the way people learn and how they react to their environment. Communication is the backbone of learning and it to a large extent determines how people react to the environment.

    Portny et al listed poor communication as one of the major causes of project failure. I think failure of communication alone can lead to the failure of an entire project because understanding the project, individual roles and expected outcomes all depend how these are communicated. Imagine also the effect of wrong interpretations of communication on a project.

    In today’s world of complex and fast electronic communication, I agree with you that a face-to-face communication will be more effective for the following reasons.
    • It offers a sense of companionship. When people talk face-to-face they establish a close relationship especially when they are meeting for the first time.
    • Face-to-face enables emphasis. From the example of the three modes of communication, the face-to-face video seems to show more emphasis based on the speaker’s expressions.
    • Meeting people face-to-face especially when working on a project with a short dateline helps the project manager to maintain presence not only for monitoring but also to resolve conflicts speedily.

    However, like learning styles, effective communication is dependent on how an individual best receives information. Although the project manager may not have to go into the details of knowing how every individual perceives and best accepts information, a good balance will lead to the achievement of desired results.