Three Suggestions for Communicating in Real Time on Your Project

Have you ever been White Water Rafting? There are times when the pace is slow, the river is smooth and you remain perfectly dry. There are other times, however, when you are…white water rafting. Hazardous drops, large waves and even larger rocks require that you use considerable skill to maneuver around these dangers. In situations like this it is good to have a talented guide on the raft with you barking out commands in real time.

Sometimes our projects are like white water rafting. There are times when the pace may be slow(er) and the meetings may be routine. A weekly status meeting with a couple of email updates in between may be all that is needed to keep everyone on the same page. However, what do you do during those times when the water gets a little rough?  The pace of your project picks up, facts may be changing every hour, information gets stale fast, and mistakes made during this time can be costly. This is when the PM needs to act as the talented guide and provide clear direction in real time.

Below are three suggestions you can use to communicate in the ‘here and now’ and keep your project team up-to-date with the most recent information:

  • Set Up a Beacon that Everyone Looks to For Direction – Establish who, and only who, will be providing direction and information during this turbulent time. Logically, it is the Project Manager. However, there are some Project Managers who feel their job is to serve as a scribe who takes notes and not provide direction. If you find yourself in that category, this is your chance to step up, take ownership for providing direction and start issuing commands to get everyone through those rough times. People do not mind being told what to do if they trust you and know your intent is to get everyone to the other side.
  • Establish a Common Fact Set – During bumpy project times, there is a lot of misinformation that can throw the team off course. Establish a common set of facts that everyone knows to be true at that moment in time and provide updates regularly. Good decisions can then be based off this information. It is understood that the facts may change, but by providing this up-to-the-minute information you make sure everyone stays current.
  • Do Not Overwhelm the Team with Too Much Information – You know what it is going to take to get everyone through this unsteady time in a project and your team trusts you. Be careful to not overwhelm them with too many details on how you plan to get them to the other side. Have team members concentrate on the next three to five immediate steps. Otherwise, they could lose focus and mistakes may be made.

While following the three suggestions above will not guarantee that your projects will never see tough times, they will help you navigate in real time without tipping the boat over.

So, what are some things you have done when you need to communicate in real time? I am especially curious of what technologies you are using to keep everyone current. For example, how do you use SharePoint, Instant Messaging, or even the private side of Twitter with your project teams to relay up-to the-minute information?

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