The Art of Effective Communication
In the Art of Effective Communication, from one modality to the next, the tone of the message was conveyed with a little more meaning. At first, the message was composed of just words and would make it easy to dismiss or consider marking it to read later before anything would be done about it. As I heard the next message in a voicemail, I started to analyze the tone in the person’s voice to determine what the sense of urgency might be for me. What approach could I take to get her what she needed and how long would it take for me to stop what I’m currently doing and respond to her needs? The face-to-face conversation had the most impact out of the three conversations. Being face-to-face with someone allows you to read verbal and non-verbal cues and really grasp the meaning behind their message and the sense of urgency that is required. As a project manager, there are many aspects of a project that must be managed and various stakeholders that need to be kept informed about their progress. As a project can have drivers, supporters and observers that the project manager must consider how and when to get them involved in the project, as they come involved, throughout the project the manager needs to determine how to communicate with them. Considering the examples in the video that offered three variations of a conversation, a good rule of thumb to remember is that text does not convey tone, so before constructing that email to stakeholders, one should consider the context of the message, the purpose of the communication and if what needs to be conveyed is going to be best served with the chosen medium. If the message is meant to provide an update to a list of tasks that have been completed, then perhaps email would be the best vehicle for that information. If the project manager is experiencing scope creep and the project is going to be delayed by a couple of weeks, then that would be the type of information that should be delivered face-to-face to help them understand exactly why there is a delay. After the meeting, if voicemail was used to follow up on the meeting to re-enforce the notion of their efforts to produce a quality product within budget close to the deadline, then leaving a message on voice mail would be acceptable.
In my department, there are seven trainers and we produce our own training materials for the applications we teach to district employees. For each training guide we create, it is designed to be delivered within a two hour time frame. As new versions of the software applications come out each year, we go through a season of updating the training guides to reflect the latest updates. The process we initially chose is an extensive process that takes over two (3) months and begins with the Microsoft Office products. As a group, we begin by reviewing what we currently had in place from a beginner, intermediate and advanced level, then we look at the updates to determine where they would best fit. We list out every possible function that each Microsoft program is capable of, that includes Word, Excel PowerPoint, Publisher and Access. Then, using a district skills matrix that reflects a foundation of skills a district employee should have, we built our classes around those topics. For features that may be specialized and a need is determined through a needs analysis, we create a separate training guide that covers that particular function, such as how to create a mail merge using Word and Excel. Using a work breakdown structure, all of the topics for each application that must be created based upon a styles guide is listed out in detail and assigned to a trainer.
In reflection, I have considered this project to be both a success and a failure. The project was a success because we had an effective system in place. After a trainer was assigned to complete a version of a training guide, such as the beginner level of Access, the trainer would complete the topics for each section of that guide. Once completed, another trainer was assigned to review the sequential steps in the guide and check for errors. After reviewing, the training guide went back to the originating trainer to be updated. Once updated, another trainer would run through the guide to make sure the topics in the guide followed a logical order and made sense for the end user. After the run through, the guide was ready for a test run in a training session with students. The test run in a class helped us to determine if the topics fit within the timeframe for the session and if the skills covered were useful for the student. It was also helpful to have more eyes on the training guides to make sure we did not miss anything. After the updated guide was used in 1-3 sessions, the assigned trainer would have a verbal discussion with those that used the guide and make any changes that were needed. At this point, the guide was finalized and ready for district-wide distribution.
As you can see, the process for writing and reviewing one training guide can get extensive. Having seven trainers working on multiple guides at one time while also having to work on other daily assignments and service the general needs of district employees concerning various issues can get a little hectic. I consider the project a failure because even though we had a solid plan in place for how to create the best product we could, realistically we simply did not have the time or manpower to execute each task with precision. Often, while working on a training guide, the trainer did not have a chance to have someone review the guide before it was needed for an upcoming training session. During the session, if mistakes were noted in a class of 20, all of them would make it their duty to inform the trainer that the guide had mistakes. Trying to complete all of the steps in the process became very frustrating and in time, that process was abandoned. As time went on and the need to update our training guides was still a necessity, we decided to reduce the number of steps in the review process and focus on job specific skills. By looking at what our audience needed to learn for their particular job based upon a district survey, it allowed us to create sessions that focused on how to be more productive with specific applications and the need to create multiple beginner, intermediate and advanced level classes became unnecessary.