When I realised I needed to write about ‘Effective Communication’ in this week’s blog, it occurred to me that I was currently going through a period in my personal sporting life where the lack of effective communication has created problems for me and many others. Effective communication is therefore important in every aspect of our lives – personal, professional and recreational.
I am an avid sportswoman having served in various committees freely volunteering so that others can continue to enjoy sport. Sadly, with a new Vice President some time ago, approximately 3000 players across Europe are feeling the effects of her poor communication skills – rarely does she communicate and when she does, she misinforms; she often blames others for not knowing or even not understanding. This has resulted in some hefty monetary losses for some players.
So what is the definition of Effective Communication?
Effective communication is a process of exchanging ideas, thoughts, knowledge and information such that the purpose or intention is fulfilled in the best possible manner.
Why is it Important?
To understand its importance, we have to understand what could go wrong and what problems could occur when we do not communicate effectively. Here are just some of them:
- Confusion amongst the teams
- Poor performance and productivity
- Unnecessary duplication
- Reduced attendance, involvement and engagement
- Costly errors
- Reduced motivation
- Extended durations in getting things completed
- Customer dissatisfaction
- Poor team morale
- Increased cost
- Reduced profits
- And so it goes on…..
Bad communication will spiral like a disease. We are all responsible for effective communication and we can all keep improving to ensure messages are understood and actioned. The better our overall communication to others is, the better the performance of our teams.
Having worked in a number of IT projects over the last 20 years as either a Change Manager or a Training Manager, I am continually finding new ways of getting messages through, getting the evidence to ensure messages are being understood and then ensuring appropriate actions are taken. With new technology continuously being introduced, we have to adapt accordingly.
Change Manager – IT Projects
One of the responsibilities of a Change Manager working in IT projects is to keep everyone informed of the changes that will be made, the impact it will have on individuals and teams, when it will affect them, how the changes will be implemented and the timing of any training that will be required and by whom. Remember training is not only system training, it may also include ways of working, business processes, and new responsibilities for certain members of staff.
Effective communication from Change Managers is critical and one of the recommended approaches is to have a clear Communication Plan identifying stakeholders, channels of communication, timing and owners of messages and clear content structures.
One of the mistakes organisations often make is to assume that all communications will be made by the project. Although the project may facilitate communications, it is often necessary that the business take ownership of also communicating to its impacted users regularly to ensure the messages are received, understood and actioned. After all, everyone is responsible for effective communication.
The Change Manager is responsible for engaging key representatives from the business, and those key representatives, often known as the Super User Network or a Change Network, will relay the messages to co-workers in their own business terms and in some cases their own language. The channel of communication has to therefore be effective from start to finish. Otherwise there will be a situation of ‘Chinese Whispers’ where the end message is nothing like the start message leading to confusion and misunderstandings.
Training Manager – IT Projects
Further evidence of benefits of effective communication is seen in training. If you are a Training Manager, you need to ensure all users are trained and understand how to follow new business processes using new technology. That includes changes in data management, policy, system steps, roles and responsibilities, timing and who does what and when. The encouragement of competency evaluation can provide relevant feedback that users are trained, they have understood and they are able to apply the knowledge in a real business scenario and on Go-Live.
Organisations often fall into the trap of assuming that showing someone something on the screen is effective and sufficient. System integrators in the main do a poor job in train the trainer because of ineffective communication skills in both written and verbal form.
Communication affects every part of our life. Everyone is responsible for effective communication taking the time to plan for it, to execute it and to readdress it if required. It will make everyone’s lives easier and clearer.
Investing in professional Change and Training Managers in IT Projects will go a long way to avoiding most if not all of the problems listed above and the return of such investment becomes immeasurable.
If you want to know more about how to communicate more effectively, our course on Effective Communication is available.
If you just need some help and advice on how to ensure your projects are successful from a Change and Training perspective, come and talk to us. If you need to know more, why not contact us.
Lastly, watch out for our next blog which includes some activities you could use to promote effective communication.
2nd March 2020