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Thursday, September 5, 2013

Keep the Information Flowing Freely

from Cobalt Project Manager Blog

A project manager is in a meeting using a megaphone to communicate with her team.One of the biggest risks for any project manager is that of stifling the flow of information in their team. You might not even realize that you are doing this but if it becomes an issue on your project then it could go on to become a real problem.
The good news is that this is something relatively easy to do as long as you think about it in advance. Here are a few of the tips you might find useful to keep the information flowing freely in your team.
Hold Regular Meetings
One of the easiest ways of making sure that everyone gets all the information they need is by holding regular meetings. Of course, you also need to make sure that you make these meetings useful and that you give the attendees some information which helps them understand the project more. One useful approach is to make sure that your agenda template has a final point on it for questions or comments. This will mean that everyone will know that they have a chance to raise their own points once the rest of the agenda has been dealt with.
Send Out the Updates on Time
The regular project status updates you send out will also be very useful to you in keeping the information flowing. Here you will probably be sending out a fairly short and concise report each week but as long as you include all of the relevant points this is fine. Again, you will want to make sure that everyone you send it to feels comfortable with the idea of contacting you if there is anything they want explained in more detail or anything else they think should have been covered. As long as you stick to your timetable for sending out the updates and make them all relevant there should be no problem.
Don’t Lock Yourself in a Room
I used to hate it when one of my colleagues went away and spent hours in a locked room to go over pieces of paper or to do whatever secret things they were doing. Even if you aren’t doing anything which you want to keep a secret you will still give out that impression by doing things that way. A good solution I found when I needed a bit of space to spread out some papers or a bit of peace and quiet was to go to the staff restaurant. There was never anyone there outside of the normal lunch hours but everyone knew where to find me if they needed me. All you have to do is let everyone else know where you are going and that there is no problem if they want to go and speak to you or see what you are up to. Of course, you will to hold your meetings and phone conferences in a quiet place but these days there is no excuse for locking yourself in a room for anything but the most urgent and confidential type of meeting.
Keep Information Accessible
Another of my pet hates is to do with people restricting access to documents which don’t need to be so closely watched. If you have documents which hold no great secrets then I don’t see any harm in letting the rest of the team read them if they want to. When I am having a slow day I sometimes like to look at some of the latest developments on other people’s projects and I guess that others feel this way too. I would suggest making the whole drive where you store your documents accessible to everyone in the team. You can then protect any individual documents which contain sensitive information on them.
Talk to Others
Talking to stakeholders, team members and anyone else who is interested in the project is the best way of making sure that the information gets passed on to the right people. It is a good idea to get into the habits of giving a quick summary of the current situation to anyone who asks you about it. You might even find that talking about the project more lets you come up with fresh ideas and consider issues which you might not have thought about before. These should also be two way pieces of communication in which the other person gets the chance to contribute something and perhaps help you progress the project as well. It could end up helping you as much as it helps the person you are passing the information on to.

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