Remember the game of telephone? You pass along a message to the person next to you, each person relays the message to their nearest neighbor and when the message meets the last person, you compare the end message to the starting message. Generally, the message has become convoluted through the various interpretations.
This week, my blog assignment is all about communication and interpretation of messages through the use of different communication modalities – email, voicemail, and face-to-face communication. As Portny et al state “..project manager should plan and prepare so their messages are received and correctly interpreted by the project audiences” (Portny et al, 2008, p. 367). This week, we focus on the responsibility of communicating effectively.
As one would expect, we rely on auditory and facial cues to interpret messages. When relying solely on an email message, the reader assigns emotion, urgency and intent to the message based simply on the written words. I found some of the email confusing in regards to deadlines. Because I was focusing on how the message could be interpreted, I was reading the email with a somewhat jaundiced eye, looking for possible sarcasm or confusion.
Hearing the same message clarified some of the points substantially. The use of voice inflection and natural pauses in speech helped to clarify the message. Many of question I had, or the perceptions changed by hearing the neutral tone of voice.
As I watched the video simulation of the face-to-face communication, my perception of the message changed very little. The facial expressions of the person speaking certainly helped clarify the message, or at least the intent of the speaker.
While each level of communication helped clarify the message by adding inflection, emotion, and intent, I think that most people are accustomed to using a variety of communication methods for relaying a message. While it’s easy to misinterpret an email message, I think many people have trained themselves to take a moment and pause, to reflect on what the message actually says, rather than our possible interpretations. Of course, I’ve had many instances of misinterpreting an email, but it’s essential to ask for clarification.
In a perfect world, there would be no misinterpretation of messages. We’d all take the time to make sure we deliver face-to-face communication, so that our messages are clear. But the reality is that part of the responsibility of a project manager is to keep the project on focus, meeting deadlines – and that requires adapting communication methods for expediency.
A good project manager is also responsible for keeping the project moving forward – which may mean translating or clarifying communication among team members. There are numerous methods for delivering messages, but the most important aspect in project management is to communicate to the stakeholders and project participants. Lack of communication is far more dangerous to a project than having to review a message and seek clarification. It can make drive a project to failure.
Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008).Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.