Selecting Means of Communication

Master Kan“Avoid, rather than check. Check, rather than hurt. Hurt, rather than maim. Maim, rather than kill. For all life is precious, nor can any be replaced.” — Master Kan (Philip Ahn), “Kung Fu”

I’ve seen a lot of different estimates of the amount of time a project manager spends on communication, but I’ve never seen an estimate below 70%.  So if we’re going to be interacting with others for most of our working day, we might benefit from a rubric for selecting our means of communication for maximum efficiency.

A rubric is used to assess a performance task, but it can also be used to determine the best approach for performing the task.  The table below describes a rubric for assessing planned communications.  Each element is associated with criteria, which correspond to numeric values.  Communication tasks with lower totals benefits from use of one-to-one communications, whereas somewhat higher totals benefit from one-to-many communications, such as Tweets or Email.  The highest totals benefit from many-to-many interactions, such as conference calls or in-person meetings.

3 2 1
Number in the Audience Many A few One
Proximity of the audience Distant In between Close
Physical distribution Widely distributed In between Co-located
Need for audience interaction High Moderate Low
Familiar with subject matter Yes Somewhat No
Potential for emotional reaction Low Moderate High
Complexity of subject matter High Moderate Low
Need for immediate response Low Moderate High

The goal of communication planning should be not to reduce the amount of time spent communicating, but to making planned communications as efficient as possible. Analysis by rubric can be very useful in preparing our project communication plans.  To paraphrase Master Kan: Speak face to face, rather than by telephone.  Telephone, rather than Instant Message.  IM, rather than Tweet.  Tweet, rather than Email.  Email, rather than schedule a conference call.  Conference, rather than schedule a meeting.  For everyone’s time is precious, and their attention and participation should not be wasted.
Dilbert Meetings a Waste of Time
I’d appreciate your thoughts on the rubric elements and criteria – I’m pretty sure my first pass can be improved.  Leave a comment below and let’s collaborate on it!

A Dilbert Project Management Montage

I don’t know who assembled this series of Dilbert project management clips into a five minute video, but George Carr posted it on YouTube, and it’s priceless.  Yes, it’s safe for work.  Even your pointy-haired boss will enjoy it.

I need to find a way to work the phrase “widespread despondency and self-mutilation” into a work conversation.  That, and “fifteen drunken monkeys with a jigsaw puzzle.”