Tips and Tools to Streamline Communication
The key to success on any team is communication. For many teams, this is easier said than done, mainly because setting up an environment that is conducive to effective and efficient communication can seem like a daunting task. Too often, this is because people overcomplicate what is necessary for a quality communication infrastructure.
The key is simplicity and standardization. It’s important to understand how to simplify and standardize communication for teams of all sizes and makeups. Construction managers can be empowered to create highly efficient teams that can execute projects with the utmost precision.
Should this be emailed? Snail mailed? Posted through FTP? Placed on the shared server? With all of the available ways to communicate in today’s business world, it is easy to see how someone can get confused on the best method of sending information or messages. Often, it can seem like technology is slowing the process instead of speeding it up.
If this is the case, odds are there are too many different channels at use. Simplify communication by cutting out all the unnecessary channels. To start, set up internal and external channels: one that is just for the project team and members of the company and one for external members that the team interfaces with.
For external, the channel has to be email. There isn’t anything as ubiquitous from company to company—and it works, so keep it. The only problem with email is that they come in droves. Be honest, how many people have an inbox of zero unread messages? Not many. That’s why an internal channel is needed. As a company and project team, it’s important to move agilely through tasks. Messages from internal colleagues shouldn’t run the risk of getting caught in the inbox clutter. Additionally, internal messages are often short and need a quick response, so get a channel that is more conducive to that.
A good recommendation is a tool called Slack, which is essentially Dropbox and a group text message rolled into one. The instant message features allow for quick responses, and it also allows for super-fast file sharing. Slack also has some fun features that email doesn’t, such as polls for where to go to lunch and a random GIF generator. Setting up an internal channel should also help cut down on so much inbox clutter, and eliminate some of those dreaded reply-all threads.
Basketball is a very fast paced sport. The way the players move and adapt throughout the game is quite remarkable—especially when you watch offenses adapt to defenses on the fly. The teams are able to do this because they have developed a playbook of standardized plays. The defense switched from man-to-man to zone? No problem, there is a play for that. The same mentality should exist for a project team.
Standardize the way the team handles everything from everyone’s specific roles to how files are stored. This will eliminate confusion and prevent important messages or information from falling through the cracks. The worst thing that can happen is for a team member to be uncertain on how to complete a task and either do the wrong thing, or forget to do it entirely. In the fast-paced world of business, these types of scenarios don’t do anything but snowball out of control until something disastrous happens. Avoid these with some standardization.
Inevitably, your team will need some tools to collaborate and communicate. These are in addition to the specific tools some members will need, such as AutoCad. To stay in line with the simplification process, have very few tools that are used for collaboration. For file sharing, it is highly recommended to have a cloud service of some kind. Tools such as DropBox, Google Drive or Box are outstanding for sharing files throughout teams. If your company or team has a shared server, that’s great, but experience has shown that these services work better. They are free at first, but you can buy additional storage. This option is much cheaper and requires substantially less expertise than setting up a server.
For communicating progress on the project, a Kanban app is recommended. Tools such as Trello, Asana and Jira are excellent ways of keeping track of certain tasks and the information associated with them. Kanban is a Japanese manufacturing method that uses a card-based system to communicate instructions and directions for completing a task and move it to the next stage of the process. The suggested tools do come in free versions, but have paid options to unlock additional features.
Examine what is best for your team before purchasing, but don’t be afraid to drop some coin either. Just remember, you get what you pay for. That $20 a month on standardized communication may sound frivolous now, but trust that cleaning up messes will cost substantially more in lost work time.
Communication isn’t hard. Just keep it simple, standardized and optimized. Don’t be afraid to examine and make small changes here and there to get the most work output. If communication infrastructure is simple and standard, making routine changes shouldn’t be difficult. Go forth and conquer with your newfound communication efficiency.