J P Systems, Inc.

IT Project Management and the Art of Communication

We work to continually improve communication.

Major Reasons Projects Derail

Problems generally fall into 5 categories:.

1
Communication Between Technical Staff:

Value Principles Above Personalities

  • Remind people that regardless of our differences, everyone wants this project done and out the door! To that end the staff must talk to people they would rather avoid.
  • Set a goal to Move the Project Ahead - Every Day!
  • Focus on the solutions, not on the problems. Everyone has blind spots and faults. Professionalism is the ability to work with people whose blind spots are annoying.
  • A unsure decision is better than no decision at all.
2
The Distinct Communication Styles of Men and Women

Women Communicate Differently than Men!

  • Women tend to think out loud and use verbal communication as a process. Men tend to do their problem solving in private and communicate only their conclusions.
  • Women who do not understand how men communicate are bewildered and frustrated by the lack of discussion. They may feel left out of the decision making process and feel powerless or invalidated and be less cooperative.
  • Men who do not understand how women communicate may be confused at team meetings. Men will view the things said at a meeting to be conclusions and decisions, whereas the women only meant them as thinking out loud. This often results in a lack of understanding on everyone's part of just what decisions have been made. Men are apt to view communication as the end of a process not as the thinking process itself.
  • See the book "Men are from Mars Women are from Venus" by John Gray for an in depth discussion of the major differences in communication styles of men and women. Women value relationships and men value competence. Women are supportive and helpful by nature where men view an offer of help as an insult to their competence.
  • To avoid misunderstandings, all meetings should have minutes written up which spell out what decisions have been made and what was only a discussion or a work in progress which needs more research or attention.
  • If a woman tries to help a man, the man can resent this.  The woman meant to be of assistance (using her intrinsic and innate supportive nature) but her offer has now turned into a conflict cycle caused by unknowingly stepping on the 'male ego' - i. e., his professional competence. The bottom line is to offer help or assistance only when asked.  In contrast, when men do not help women, women view this as not contributing sufficient details to discussions and not participating.  
  • Men who do not communicate enough in meetings are perceived by women managers as day dreaming and not paying attention if they are too quiet.  Actually they may be busy analyzing data and are not ready to give their conclusions.  If you never speak up at meetings, you will eventually be replaced by someone who is less risk adverse.
3
Communication with your client:

Your client does not tell you what they want

  • They are new at their job and do not know enough about their organization to describe their own processes and needs.
  • They have a heavy work load and are not making it a priority to talk to you.
  • They assume you know what they want.
  • They do not have a technical background and do not know what you can do for them, so they don't know to ask.
4
Communication between Management and the Technical Staff:

This can take many forms

  • The project manager has set impossible deadlines and the staff can not take them seriously.
  • The project manager is micro managing them.
  • The project manager has no technical background and can not make reasonable completion estimates.
5
Your staff is not talking to the client

No requirements document or data model will ever be done in sufficient detail that no communication is needed once implementation starts.

  • As a result, your staff must have access to the client or to another staff member with a LOT of real world knowledge.
  • Some aspects of the project are classified and staff do not have access to the information.
  • Egos, empire building, or hidden agendas are preventing crucial communications.
  • Your staff works in a different building than your client and as a result they are guessing at the details of the requirements instead of scheduling a meeting with the client.
  • Not even your own project staff works in the same building and as a result, meetings which uncover new information are not happening. In 25 years, I have not seen a scattered project staff pull off a satisfactory and on time implementation. Why is this? People are making different assumptions with out realizing it. The faulty basis for their assumptions are not discovered until the software is initially delivered.
  • People who left the project did not document what they did or why they made decisions.

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