Saturday, March 16, 2013

Communication for Dynamic Environments

What approach to communication would be appropriate for a dynamic project environment?

Consider the effects of the traditional formal communication approach in a tall hierarchy...

A tall hierarchy with formal decision points creates too much delay to keep pace...

By the time a decision is made in a tall hierarchy its irrelevant, and the whole futile process has to be restarted.

For dynamic project environments mix-in and encourage informal communications with your formal communication points. This does not mean you should abandon a formal structure, but rather compliment it with large amounts of information communications: co-locate the team in open plan,  email, IMS, catch-up meets, "standups", or with a comfortable lunch room.

A venture capital participant described their communication as follows:
Most of our communication internally within the fund management team is fast and informal (email, drop ins in offices and round the ‘water cooler’ discussions, face-to-face meetings called at short notice). Also, most communication with our portfolio companies and investees is fast and informal exchanged between the various team members to adjust to the myriad of rapid changes. (Ventcap1).

Make communications FREQUENT. Don't wait for a fixed formal meeting, but don't skip the formal meeting either, as they are an important catch-all for items missed during informal discussions.

Use a flat structure for rapid communication, like IBM did when they created the PC in 12 months, or Google does all the time for that matter. 

As Burt Rutan advised, build the smallest team possible that can still do the job.. State a clear goal, and empower your team/staff to achieve it with the smallest amount of high level oversight possible. Co-locate staff.

Water cooler chats are OK .. not a sign of chaos.

Collyer, S., Warren, C., Hemsley, B., & Stevens, C. (2010). Aim Fire Aim - Project Planning Styles in Dynamic Environments, Project Management Journal, 41(4), 108-121.
Collyer, S., & Warren, C. M. J. (2009). Project Management Approaches for Dynamic Environments, International Journal of Project Management, 27(4), 355-364