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Guide to Communicating. Contents. Why communication is critical to projects A communications model The main channels of communication Examples of types of communications Filtering Barriers to communication Approach to communications Conveying messages effectively Listening

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Guide toCommunicating


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Contents

  • Why communication is critical to projects

  • A communications model

  • The main channels of communication

  • Examples of types of communications

  • Filtering

  • Barriers to communication

  • Approach to communications

  • Conveying messages effectively

  • Listening

  • Llistening techniques

  • Communications planning


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Why communication is critical to projects

  • The majority of projects fail to deliver what was required within the constraints that were set.

  • Most of the various causes of project failure can be attributed to communication difficulties.

  • Project Managers should spend between 75 and 90% of their time in communication activities (PMBOK 2000).

  • By being aware of and mastering the techniques in the following slides, project managers and team members will be able to be more effective communicators.


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A Communications Model

Communication is a complex process. To better understand this it is helpful to break this down into components. A communications model derived from the telecommunications industry provides a useful representation of communications.

Receiver

Source

Encoder

Message

Decoder

Channel


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The Six Components of the Communications Model

  • Source: the originator of the message.

  • Encoder: the translator of the source’s thoughts into a format that can be transferred to the receiver.

  • Message: the product of the encoder, what is transferred to the receiver.

  • Channel: the medium used to transfer the message from source to receiver.

  • Receiver: the recipient of the message.

  • Decoder: the translator of the receivedmessage into meaningful content.


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Example of the Communications Model

  • Source: Mary

  • Encoder: The processing that takes Mary’s thought and converts that to words and then into the pressing of keys on the computer keyboard

  • Message: The text of the email sent “Jane, can you meet me for lunch on Tuesday? Regards, Mary.”

  • Channel: The email system

  • Receiver: Jane

  • Decoder: Jane’s conversion of symbols seen on hercomputer screen into an understanding that Marywants to know if Jane can meet her for lunch onTuesday

Consider the scenario:Mary wants to meet Jane for lunch on Tuesday, and sends an email…


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The main channels of communication

  • Written: reports, notes, memos, letters, emails, faxes. Written communication allows the recipient to reply in their own time.

  • Verbal: face to face, phone. Verbal communication provides the opportunity to immediately deliver the message and obtain a response.

  • Non-verbal: it has been estimated that over 60% of our face to face communication is non-verbal. Factors include our appearance, posture, gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice,eye contact end physical contact.


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Examples of communication types

  • Personal letters

  • Memos

  • Posters

  • Newsletters

  • Articles in the press

  • Annual reports

  • Announcements

  • Brochures

  • Bulletin boards

  • Suggestion cards

  • The “rumour mill”

  • One-on-one meetings

  • Workshops

  • Small group meetings

  • Presentations

  • Ceremonies

  • Surveys

  • Voicemail

  • Electronic mail

  • Teleconferences

  • Videotapes

  • Audiotapes

  • “Corridor” or “kitchen” conversations


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What is filtering?

Filtering is altering the interpretation of the message by applying certain influences or biases.

The receiver will filter the message according to their experience and as a result the interpretation of the message can be very different from what was intended.

The consequence of filtering is that there can be misunderstanding which can lead to an unexpected response.

For example, the project manager may ask a team member if the document has been completed. The team member may interpret this as asking whether it has been written, and not whether it has also been reviewed and signed off.


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Causes of Filtering

Some of the common areas that cause filtering are:

  • Language: the receiver interprets the message based on their translation of the language to thoughts and ideas.

  • Culture: of the recipient and their understanding of the culture of the environment they are in (the workplace, the organisation, the industry, the local area and country).

  • Semantics: the receiver interprets the message based on their understanding of the meaning of the words used.

  • Knowledge base: the receiver utilises a different knowledge base on which to interpret the message.

  • Implication: the interpretation of the message may be based on assumptions. An extreme example of implication is sarcasm, where the opposite of what is meant to be interpreted is said


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Causes of Filtering

  • Ethics: the ethical values of the receiver and the sender can influence the interpretation of the message. For example the sender may consider honesty less important than upsetting people when reporting what happened.

  • Reputation: The reputation of the sender may set a predisposition on the receiver on interpretation. For example the sender may be reputed to exaggerate.

  • Organisational status: the role and position that the sender and receiver have in the organisation may influence interpretation of the message.

  • Emotional factors: the emotional loading of the words used may differ significantly. For example the interpretation of a comment such as “it’s a mess”.

  • Situational factors: the current mindset of the receiver. For example they may be distracted by some personalissue.


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Addressing filtering

Project managers and business analysts need to be aware of how filtering can affect communication and appreciate that just because a message has been sent does not mean it has been received and interpreted as expected.

To avoid problems caused by filtering it is recommended that the sender of the message check that the message was understood correctly by asking questions, or asking the receiver to verify their understanding of the message.


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Barriers to Communication

Barriers to communication are obstacles that restrict communication.

Some common types of barriers are:

  • Playing power games: where communication is politically motivated.

  • Withholding information: for example a cover-up of an error or omission.

  • Management by memo: instructions via memo rather than face to face.

  • Absence of communication channels: some recipients may not have access to the channel of communication that was assumed by the sender. For example email may be unavailable when out of the workplace.

  • Spatial separation: geographical separation can influence the extent and quality of communication


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Barriers to communication

  • Emotional sensitivity: for example the receiver may be particularly sensitive to criticism.

  • Hidden agendas: where the person may be influencing for an undisclosed reason.

  • Background noise: the level of background noise can impede effective communication. The large number of emails now being sent is one type of background noise that impedes its use as an effective communication tool.

  • Prejudices: personal prejudices and beliefs about types of people can impact the effectiveness of communication.


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Dealing with the barriers

Project managers and business analysts need to break down the barriers so that effective communication can occur.

One of the simplest methods of achieving this is to ask the person if the barrier exists? For example, ask: Is there something affecting this that I am not aware of? Is location a problem in communication on this project? Is this the best method for us to communicate on this?

By asking questions the barrier can be recognised, and in many cases removed or made less restrictive.

At the project level a communications plan can be developed and the strategies put in place to avoid or address anticipated barriers.


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Approach to Communications

What information does this individual/group need to receive?

What is the best mechanism for communicating with this individual/group?

When and how often should the communication occur?

Who will be responsible for creating and delivering this communication?

Considering the potential for filtering and barriers to communication a project manager should consider the following in each communication they make:

Message

Method

Timing

Communicator


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Conveying messages effectively

  • Be clear and concise

  • Avoid using jargon

  • Don’t brain dump - summarise

  • Explain first and finish with instructions of what you want the receiver to do

  • Don’t waffle - stick to the point

  • Don’t confuse several messages in one - keep it simple

  • If stating what to do and not to do finish with the do statement


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Listening

Listening is a key component of communicating.

A distinction is made between hearing and listening. True listening involves understanding.

Good listening skills are of major importance in managing projects.

The project manager needs to hear and understand the needs of the sponsor, team and stakeholders to be able to produce the best results for the project in the most effective way.

Business analysts need to listen very carefully when gathering requirements to ensure theyare captured correctly.


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Listening techniques

Some techniques to improve listening skills are:

  • Develop an appreciation of why we need to listen better.

  • Do less talking and stop internally preparing the next thing to say while the other person is talking.

  • Show you are listening – pay attention to the speaker, make supportive sounds and gestures.

  • Ask yourself if you have really understood what has been said.

  • Paraphrase back what they have said or take notes (depending on the context).


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Listening techniques (cont.)…

Additional ways of improving listening:

  • Openness: be open in your communication style, show interest and curiosity.

  • Focus: ignore distractions.

  • Empathy: show an understanding of their situation, thoughts and feelings.

  • Positive intentions: maintain a positive mindset to what you hear, avoid reacting negatively or criticising.

  • Problem solving orientation: keep the focus on how to resolve or help the situation rather than on blame. Manage your emotional response and avoid confrontation.


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Communications planning

The project manager needs to develop a communications plan for the project to ensure effective communication during the life of the project.

The communications plan identifies all regular communications and key one-off communications such as the kick-off meeting and post implementation review.

The plan needs to include all types of communications, including:

  • face to face: such as meetings and workshops

  • written: such as status reports and newsletters