Everybody knows that communication is important. It almost becomes the number one must have soft skills even for IT engineers. Especially in agile projects, communication becomes the oils across all team activities and is the key to make all roles work together smoothly and efficiently.
Communication happens via different channels, including but not limited to face to face talk, presentation, email, documents etc. For any channel, if communicate in a SMART way, we may find it helps to get better result. SMART here represents Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. Yes, that famous objective setting criteria. After all, we communicate for something. That is an objective. So why not try communicate in a SMART way whenever appropriate?
Let’s see some examples and practices.
Have a specific topic in a communication session. State the topic clearly at the beginning so everybody focus on the same from the beginning.
Those who used to express in “Reason-> Result” order may want to switch to express in “Result -> Reason” order to catch the eyes and focuses. There are also scenarios that another related topic may be raised when discuss a topic in a mail thread. In this case, a separate mail thread with different subject and different recipients could be initiated from current to expand further discussion. Another good example is, when report bugs, distinguish the issues occur under same context and only report one issue in one bug.
The most important thing for a communication is to get a clear result. Think of below points:
- Is everybody on the same page? Communication is more than just listen and talk, but need to understand each other. So when listen, put away any assumptions and judgments, do not just listen what you expect, put yourself in his or her shoes and get the points. Double confirm or rephrase to make sure if need.
- Are all items clarified and sorted out?
- Does the issue get resolved?
- Is action plan or follow-up plan needed? Does it come out? Are corresponding owners assigned?
If do not want to make the communication open forever, the agreement from all sides is necessary. There are many occurrence when an open discussion may lead to a large scope. Consider include items that are realistic and achievable. For those are not, you may want to bring them up in another communication session later at an appropriate time.
Stick to the specific topic set when begin the communication. Distraction often happens and people find suddenly that they are far from what they start with. Initiator of the communication should be able to drag the focus back to target topic on time.
Control time so that the communication finishes in specified time period. Get ETA for action items. You may be familiar with a tip for communication: when you are asked something, if you could not provide answer in short time, response on time that what’s your plan and when you will be back with result. This applies to a task email and a bug assigned back asking for more info.
Looks interesting? Try and you may find things are different.