Monday, January 5, 2009

Communication & documentation

One day-to-day logistical issue that I think we should spend a little time talking about is how such a large, physically separated, diverse group of people can best communicate with one another.
  • How does a project that one person starts impact the work of others?
  • What are the best trouble shooting methods for various problems?
    • Who is the proper person to contact
    • How should progress on solving the problem be shared with all impacted people
  • Do the people you're talking to know what you're talking about?
    • With so many individuals, and so many different projects in progress, it's important to make sure everyone in a meeting/email chain/whatever is up to date on the issue at hand and any history behind it.
    • How does one avoid getting buried in jargon? We all have technical roles to varying degrees, but different areas of expertise.
  • How can we improve documentation of conversations, decisions, technical rules and requirements?
    • Who are different audiences, within and outside of our group, that might need to know this info?
    • Is documentation useful/useable to all of these various audiences?
    • Assess worst case scenario documentation- if all of us are abducted by aliens, could a new group of people figure out what we were doing and pick up where we left off?


Dave said...

One of the things that I constantly wrestle with - when do I need to communicate and when do I need to keep moving?

Are the concepts of change/agility incompatible with communication and buy-in?

Always seems like when I am within the project, I wonder why people keep asking for updates. And when I am outside a project, I wonder why I never hear an update!

Steve said...

Quick comments:

For starters, stop being physically separated. This is a logistical issue that can be resolved.

Other issues will fall into place after solving that problem. For example, the diversity is a strength and proximity will increase communication once there has been enough of an initial bumpy period. Increased communication will in turn become more fluid and will facilitate efficiencies in problem resolution and generating useful documentation...

Dorothea said...

My personal bete noire: meetings whose content could be communicated online with many, MANY fewer person-hours.

I don't need to sit in a room just to hear information. Give it to me in a blog or on a mailing list, please.

Dave, that's an extremely important question; thank you for raising it.

Anonymous said...

On the topic of meetings...sometimes I think we block off too much time (in WiscCal) for certain meetings, those whose issues could/should be resolved in a quicker 15-minute rather than 60-minute meeting.

Meetings should have a purpose, an agenda, an issue to resolve or idea to discuss and, most important to me, a decision point.

I also find myself frustrated when meeting time is wasted "catching up" meeting attendees who missed past meetings/discussions/decision points -- especially if it is a standing meeting. Staff should be responsible for keeping up to date on projects/teams/committees of which they are members.

My two cents worth...