Friday, April 16, 2010

It's About Communication

I've been teaching for a long time now that I believe communication is the basis for everything we do in IT. However, communication is the one thing we ignore the most - both in practice and skill building. I dislike the term "soft skills" because "soft" implies easy or optional. The reality is that unless you communicate well with everyone in the organization, you lack the knowledge to solve problems and keep a project on track.

I ran across an interesting article this morning at about how one CIO does this :

CIO says communication is key to buy-in

No matter which role you are in, communication is a big part of your job, whether you practice it or not.

Here are some quick tips:

1) Be intentional

You have to keep communication in mind and be thinking all the time, "Who needs to know this?" You also have to be thinking "What do I need to know?" and "Whom should I be speaking with today?"

2) Do not confuse e-mail and meetings with communication

These can be vehicles for communication, but they have flaws. E-mail fails to convey the tone of our communication and meetings can drift into discussions of many topics. Just pick up the phone or walk down the hall if you really want to touch base with someone.

3) Practice

Yes, practice how you say things. Learn the words that carry meaning and power. Learn how to control your body language and read the body language of others. Do you have a big presentation in your future? Do you have an important conversation with someone soon? Practice!

4) Read before sending

So you've written an e-mail, status report or some other piece of written communication. Take an extra 60 seconds and read back through it. Place yourself in the role of the people who will receive it. How would be feel if you were the recipient? Are there any obvious gaps, typos, or other mistakes? Testers get nailed on this because we are highlighting others' mistakes. People aren't perfect, but try to find mistakes the best you can.

A really good book on this subject is Naomi Karten's "Communication Gaps and How to Close Them".

I hope I have communicated my thoughts on this well! Your thoughts?

Have a great day.



Gary Parker said...

Thanks for reminding us about the importance of communication. Because we work with technology we often forget the importance of communication. A lot of the problems we face on the job are not technical problems but people problems. Improving our communications to all helps insure we are all on the same page and more importantly going in the same direction.

Randy Rice said...

Hi Gary,

Thanks for your comment. I have often said that IT people sometimes gravitate to our profession because we are more comfortable working with things than people. I am so glad I read Jerry Weinberg's "The Psychology of Computer Programming" back in the 70's when I was still in college. It prepared me for the human challenges in software development - especially communication. "Peopleware" and "The Mythical Man-month" are other classics.

Right, being on the same page and going in the same direction are two big things!