Not so long ago, there was only US mail and the telephone for people who needed to stay in touch. But in the last 10 years, there has been an explosion in the numbers and types of communications tools that can be used to keep your team together and keep important stakeholders informed of project and/or company progress.
Many still revolve around the land-line telephone because it is such a universal installation. But as computers and wireless installations have become increasingly more prevalent, communications technology that uses these platforms have entered and revolutionized the field.
The ability of these more recent platforms to let people share graphics in real time and the ability, of some, to allow that all important "face-to-face" type of meeting is dramatically changing how some businesses communicate, boosting their productivity, and dramatically cutting costs.
Due to the newness of some technologies, there can be reliability and interface issues that still need improvement, but the rapid rate of technology advancement and provider innovation is quickly eliminating these issues.
Some of these technologies include: classical and suped-up conference calls and videoconferencing; podcasts; webinars; Instant Messaging, just to name a few.
Once you and your team have produced your list of people for your communication plan, gotten everyone's phone number and email, and listed their role, there is one more thing that needs to be done. Add each person's preferred mode of communication to the list. This is one of the most crucial, but commonly overlooked, elements of a good communication plan. Different people have different ways they like to communicate and the more you respect that, the better off you and your project are going to be.
Some people are at their computers all day and constantly check their email, others travel a lot and you can catch them only on their cell phone, others prefer office phone calls, and still others only respond if you talk with them face-to-face. Not using a person’s preferred mode of communication means you may not get the information or feedback you need when you need it. This can prevent you from being able to effectively make a required quick decision or stave off an impending crisis.
In today's workplace, adequate communication is difficult because many times not all the people in your communications loop work in the same building or city or state, and some don’t even work the same hours. Once you know how you need to communicate to the people identified on your communications plan, you then need to identify which of the many available communications tool are best suited for your team/company and how they work.
If you have never seen or put together a communications plan before, the uncertainty of not knowing what it should contain, how it should look, and what other people might be expecting to see can be paralyzing. As a result, a lot people stop after the exercise of identifying who should be on the list and what those people need to know, never actually completing an actual full blown plan. Because communication is so important to business and/or project success, don’t let this happen to you!
For almost anything in business or government, and that goes for communication plans too, there are books, tools, examples, freeware, and professional software packages for just about anything you want to do. The Internet has all kinds of sample communication plans that come with extensive descriptions of what they need to contain and what they look like that you can copy and download for free.
To find one of these, just use any major Internet search engine and type in: "project management, communications plan" and a host of sites will appear. Many of these have forms you can copy or download and use right away. Even if you have never written or even seen a communications plan before, within minutes you can be filling out a professional looking and organized communications plan.
When you forget or omit an important communications link and have a breakdown in communication, problems occur; and sometimes they are so big they take an entire project down; and everyone loses.
So how can you stop this from happening? Well, nothing can ever be completely avoided, but you can minimize the possibility of a major communications breakdown by generating a communications plan spreadsheet that lists all of the tasks and associated deliverables and who is responsible for them.
Your spreadsheet should also include who is to receive whatever product that task produces, whether that be an invoice generated by your accounting department, a status report for your upper management or a regulatory agency, a software tool to automate a piece of equipment in your company’s chemical plant, or a highway overpass for your customer.
In addition, your document should indicate who needs to approve the deliverable and how frequently along the way that person needs to be kept informed on its progress. Such a matrix of tasks, people, and frequencies of communication helps keep you focused and keeps you from forgetting who has to know what when and prevents you from tiring out your key people by spamming them unnecessarily.
Strategic communication will be your key to success!
For any project, the most important part and, indeed, the area almost always identified by project managers and management as needing improvement is communication.
Communication between team members, communication between the billing department and suppliers or subcontractors, communication between upper management and the project team, communication between management and outside stakeholders, communication between the construction bosses and inspectors, communications between your company and the surrounding community…..you name it.
Communication to all major stakeholders not only keeps people up to date on your project's or company's progress, but it also helps create that all important buy-in and ownership of project or company decisions.
Just remember however that, although communication is your key to success, no one likes to be spammed continuously with information they don't care about or need to know. Indiscriminant communication not only irritates those receiving it, but can also dilute your ability to get what you need from people when you need it, because they no longer read what you send them because so much of it has nothing to do with them. So, after you make that extensive, team-generated, communications list, sit down and look at it (with the team), think collectively about the risks of one person or another not knowing something important and the impact it could have on your project, and then prioritize the people on that list.
This will help you and your team to identify who has the capability and highest probability of wreaking the most havoc on your project if they are not adequately informed. Sometimes the results of this kind of analysis can be quite surprising and you find people you might not have thought would have such a huge impact as they do!
You will also find that some of the people on the list you thought might be important are less critical than you initially thought. Obviously, keeping the highest priority people informed of the project, its status, progress, and problems is going to be your project's or company's key to success.
How many times have you or your team been involved in a project, no matter what the size, and had someone come out of the blue or get some unexpected bad news at the last minute which puts your project, all your hard work, and careful planning in jeopardy?
Chances are you forgot to put a key person in the information loop. This person could be as big as the CEO of the company or as seemingly insignificant as the kid in the mail room.
Unwittingly leaving a key person in the dark is a classic and chronic problem faced by all managers and project teams. One way to overcome this problem is to leave nothing to chance and develop a communications plan……and put it in writing! But don't just do this in a vacuum because one person is never able to think of all the people that might need to be put in the loop.
A good communications plan is a team effort. Different people know different parts of a project or problem. It never fails that each person on the team will come up with different contacts that they know who have critical information that you will need. Sometimes these people can help you or can come out of left field and kill your efforts for one reason or another. It is important to keep these contacts in the communications loop and use their collective knowledge for your project's success.
Putting together the master list and prioritizing the people on it is the next step. We'll talk about that in our next blog post.
We've come a long way from smoke signals and drums, the earliest forms of telecommunication. Today's telecommunication industry uses electromagnetic waves and electronic transmitters to connect people. Connections are still made by sight or hearing, but telephone, television, radio, computers and satellites now allow the message to travel around the world, even out into space, and to be received almost instantly.
Did the men who invented modern telecommunications -- Alexander Graham Bell (telephone), Guglielmo Marconi (radio), John Logie Baird (television) – realize how profoundly they would change the world? Today, the telecommunication industry is a significant factor in world economy, generating 3% of the gross world product. Figures for 2006 place industry revenue at $1.2 trillion and rising.
Highlights, interesting facts and a few near misses in telecommunications history:
- 1837 Samuel Morse develops the electrical telegraph and signaling system. Embarrassingly, he couldn't get it to work during the unveiling demonstration!
- 1849 Antonio Meucci invents the first device to electronically transmit the human voice (i.e., phone). It flopped because to hear, users had to put the receiver in their mouth.
- 1866 First transatlantic telecommunication is made.
- 1876 Alexander Bell and Elisha Gray independently invent the telephone. Although Gray filed his patent application first, bad legal advice and a clerical error led him to withdraw his application and the patent was awarded to Bell.
- 1878 First commercial telephone service set up in New Haven, Connecticut (home of Yale University) and the following year in London.
- 1901 Guglielmo Marconi positions himself to win the 1909 Nobel Prize in physics by inventing a working wireless radio that functions between Canada and England.
- 1925 John Baird demonstrates the transmission of moving pictures at Selfridges, a London department store which conveniently sells couches.
- 1929 The BBC makes the first experimental TV broadcast.
- 1940 George Stibitz makes the first computer transmission using a mainframe system and remote terminals. Mammoth mainframes dominate the emerging industry through the next two decades.
- 1960 Computer geeks start experimenting with packet switching, bypassing the mainframe to send large packets of data directly to different computers.
- 1969 The first network – just 4 modes – is in operation.
- 1970 Scientists at Corning Glass Works produce the first viable optical fiber, ushering in a new era in telecommunications and enabling the internet.
- 1978 The first international packet switched network connects the U.S. and Europe.
- 1989 While working for CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau invent the web.
- 1990 Fledgling micro-networks slowly merge to become the behemoth that today we call the “net.”
No longer an infant, telecommunications has hit its teen years and like a teenager is growing by leaps and bounds. A chronology of the discoveries and achievements of the past 15 years would fill pages. Today the path from discovery to implementation and production moves literally at the speed of light.
Telecommunications have enabled companies to build global empires, just look at Amazon and Wal-Mart, two outstanding examples. It is now possible to do face-to-face business with customers all over the world while sitting at your office desk. When you must travel, telecommunications allows you to stay connected to your home office and instantly resolve customer issues. With telecommunications, employees can remain an integral part of your business team while working from home when personal or family matters demand their attention.
It's been less than 100 years since Samuel Morse first pressed down on a telegraph key. It's only taken 15 years for the internet to change life as we know it. Can you imagine where we'll be 15 years from now? Buckle up! We're in for an amazing ride!
You're climbing the corporate ladder. You've just landed your dream job or maybe you've been tagged for that management position you've been angling for. You're anxious to impress your boss with your leadership capabilities and earn your colleagues' respect. This is the opportunity that could send your career skyrocketing!
So what's the catch? Many new managers make the mistake of assuming that their previous work habits will continue to gain them success in their new position. It's a common mistake says Michael Watkins, a former Harvard Business School professor and author of The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders At All Levels. In fact, though managers come from different backgrounds and possess different characteristics, they often make the same common mistakes.
Top 10 Management Mistakes
- Rigid policies. While policies need to be followed, some flexibility must be afforded employees and customers, particularly in small companies. Before you act, weigh the importance of the policy against the good will of a loyal customer or employee.
- Lack of communication. Communication is the key to being a good manager. Employees need to know what is expected of them and when projects or tasks are due.
- Failing to listen. A good manager listens to what his employees have to say and hears the needs and concerns behind the words.
- My way or the highway. A good manager doesn't try to solve every problem or pretend he has every answer. He knows when to seek help and realizes that there's more than one way to accomplish a task.
- The half empty glass. Don't always focus on what went wrong. Recognizing achievements and employee accomplishments builds morale and creates a positive work environment.
- The buck stops here. As a manager, you can't delegate blame. If you're in charge, you're responsible for the actions of the employees you manage.
- Favoritism. Showing favoritism is a fast track to poor morale. You lose credibility and the respect of your team when you play favorites.
- Just do it. You can't expect your team to blindly plow ahead if they don't understand the project. Take time to explain the project and how it fits into the larger plan. A team that is invested in a project will work harder and produce better results.
- Too much technology. Don't hide behind emails. You must embrace and practice your people skills too.
- Never change. In the rapidly changing business environment, you must be open to change. There is a place for tried-and-true methods, but there must also be room for new ideas and practices. Be flexible.
We're big on saving you money with superb video, telephone, event and web conferencing services, but did you know we can also help you and your company to make a difference for the environment and to move in the GREEN direction too?
Accu-Rate Communications Inc., parent company of AccuConference, strives to be as paperless as possible. We're working hard to do our part to save a few trees by going digital with nearly all of our office documents. We can help you move in the GREEN direction too. With our services, we help you to cut travel costs that you would incur for sales calls across the country, training seminars for employees spread across multiple branches, and international brainstorming sessions. Using our online conferencing services for audio and video, you may never have to leave the office again. Just think of the travel budget savings as well as the smaller environmental impact your business will make.
If you're worried that being there versus being on a screen might not work for you, you may want to check with your clients after a test of our services. We make it very easy to try out our services for your next meeting. We've found that with video conferencing, clients get that "personal connection" in the same way as if you were in the room "face to face". Video conferencing is a great way to connect anywhere, anytime, with anyone.
So next time you think that you've got to fly off to London for a sales call, think GREEN and get AccuConference instead!