Team Management: Communication IS the Key16 Sep 2015
Lack of dialogue within teams often gets mentioned as key to company failure, slow growth and significant employee turnover. Although we all know how important it is, it may not be as easy as it seems to get team communication right.
Initial communication and the team's input in the early project stages is characteristic of an Agile approach. The teams are built as interdisciplinary. This allows for people coming from different aspects of the work to express their specialized views of an idea early on, helping to avoid easy mistakes and see the limitations before too much work gets done. Likewise, having the idealists, the techs and marketers present in the first stages of a process can help to direct a product more towards a desired, salable goal in a sensible way.
For as long as you have good communication channels open, the team has a sense of begin able to fix and address any issues straight away, which results in fewer delays and surprises.
Good communication will also result in team development, as a positive role model of a team leader will be inspiring and breed learning will in the team.
Likewise, lack of open communication will cause the team to be stagnant, to possibly keep new concepts to themselves, meaning both the individuals and the group stop growing.
Making ”what we are all working towards” shared knowledge among the team saves endless hours of employees wasting time trying to figure things out for themselves, or misunderstanding their roles and doing the wrong or unnecessary things.
This also goes back to team empowerment - people who know the goal are better equipped to providing good solutions and taking responsibility for them.
As always, has got to be coming from top levels. So the team leader has to be communicating, and doing it well, in order for the team members to see the value and adopt the behavior. Communication is effective, when a mutual understanding between all involved is achieved.
It's common for teams to be encouraged to socialize after hours, as this is one of the best ways to build understanding and ease of information delivery among colleagues. Whether you want to include higher management in that too, is up to you. Chances of making communication channels better this way are most likely equal to losing an element of respectability and rank, often needed at those high positions.
Removing these is a big part of making this work, so ensure the ways to get one's thoughts and opinions across are known to all on the team. Also, keep sensible, workable policies on addressing any miscommunication issues in place.
The mythical & the obvious
As far as communication mythology goes, the prominent one are meetings. Holding these does not mean you're communicating, nor that you're doing it well.
It's common knowledge by now that most meetings are a waste of time, bring no value nor make things clearer. Much better to communicate online, also leaving a trace of what's been said and decided usable for future reference. Using online communication tools also takes care of delivering a message to any number of team members at the same time.
Listening - please, do not (ever) forget, that the crucial part in communication is listening and reaching conclusions. This is the point. Get people's views, do a quick analysis and make decisions based on this. Talking to people is not just about the exercise of talking, is it?
Pay attention to the feedback you're getting on information sharing patterns, to see what can be done better.