Friday, September 19, 2014

Communicating Effectively

Effective communication is an ongoing process of sharing information. It is essential to clearly express ideas to others and to understand what other people are saying to you. Effective communication leads to trust and mutual respect. “The ability to communicate well both orally and in writing is a critical skill” (Portny, 2008, p. 357). Communication methods should vary based on the message intent. Some messages can be sent via e-mail or voicemail whereas others are best served as a face-to-face conversation, when possible.

In the multimedia program, “The Art of Effective Communication”, one message is conveyed in audio, video, and written text format. The tone and urgency of the message changes in each format as you internalize what the sender is communicating. Effective listening skills and visual cues play a significant role in interpreting the audio and video messages while the written text leaves a lot to the imagination. I feel that the face-to-face communication relays the true message of the sender’s intent. Although it did not happen in this example, face-to-face communication provides an opportunity for the receiver to ask questions, clarify understanding of the message, and visually interpret the sender’s tone, inflection, and body language.

The following points express my interpretation of each mode of communication:

E-mail: In this example, my perception is that this is an urgent matter that only I can deliver on. The sender seems genuinely concerned about meeting a deadline that has serious consequences. The sender respects my current workload but my lack of urgency could potentially damage our business relationship. In this situation, I would act on this request expediently as I would not want to negatively impact my business partner’s assignment.

Voicemail: The business partner’s voicemail adds more urgency to the situation because I can hear the stressed tone and inflection in her voice. The business partner still seems genuinely concerned about meeting the deadline, but does not come across as rude or aggressive. There is still a mutual level of respect with this business relationship and I would definitely react quickly to ensure it stays that way.

Face-to-face: The face-to-face interaction puts me at ease a little more than the previous examples. Although the business partner is expressing concern about meeting the deadline, the visual representation shows that the business partner is relaxed and even smiling as she speaks. Her body language reflects understanding and professional courtesy as it feels like we know each other pretty well. This removes the stressful sense of urgency on my end. Even though I would still want to deliver the data quickly, this interaction makes me feel like I have a little more time before the matter becomes extremely serious.

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, September 12, 2014

Learning from a Project - "Post-Mortem"

When I think of a project that I learned a great deal from, a specific one comes to mind. The project goals were reached in the end but the process was disastrous. In retrospect, there are a few components that could have been done differently to make the project a success. To provide some background, this project was created as part of a mandate from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). As part of the mandate, our organization was required to create a process for logging customer concerns and complaints. All branch employees had to be trained with the new process and we had 120 days to do it. This meant that we had to outline the process, create a system, and train all employees in this short period of time.

To get all parties involved, there were two project teams created. One team was mostly comprised of the organization's upper management and project champions, with a few functional employees. The second project team was that of our internal training team which consisted of functional employees and two project champions from the other project team. Each project team had a different project manager.

One problem was that the smaller, internal training project team had to await instruction from the larger organizational project team before actions took place. This created a huge communication problem because the left hand didn't know what the right hand was doing. The project champions that were engaged in the larger team would come back and report the "next steps" to the smaller team which included important details and timelines. This process didn't leave our group with much time to execute, which left everyone in a panic of meeting the deadline.

The second problem was that the larger team wanted our group to create the training simultaneously with the policy and the system. This was difficult to do because we needed both to reference in the training. The training had to be revised multiple times as the larger team tried to nail down policy definitions, scenarios, and exclusions. In addition, systems had their share of glitches as we tried to capture screen shots of what the process looked like.

In the end, the project deadlines were met with only 24 hours to spare (no room for error). Looking back, we could not change the CFPB's deadline but the following would have made for a smoother project:


  • Include the Instructional Designer in all project teams and meetings. Obtaining any information firsthand can help the ID draft designs and get an idea of what the project team is envisioning. 

  • Communicate frequently. Time is of the essence for any project so when a project deadline is extremely tight like this one, it is crucial to share information as soon as it is received.

  • If at all possible, policies and systems should be created first. This will save time and resources when the training is created. This will also eliminate multiple attempts to create training that relies heavily on the two components being in place.

  • When faced with a project with stringent timelines, the IDs functional manager should be informed every step of the way. This will help the functional manager when scheduling other projects for the ID.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Welcome!

Hello everyone!!

My name is Jenea Smith and I pleased to have you all visit my blog. Feel free to review and make comments on the material I post here. I look forward to learning with each of you!