Archive for March, 2011

Communicating Effectively

March 18, 2011

For this blog assignment, the members of the class were asked to observe a multimedia message delivered in three formats: an email, a voice mail, and a face-to-face conversation. The message is from Jane to Mark asking for a report that Jane needs or else she may miss her own deadline. We were asked to record our impressions of the message in each of the formats and offer some comparisons.

When I read the email, I wrote that Jane was respectful, but plaintive and desperate. She really needs this report from Mark as soon as possible. When I listened to the voice mail, I wrote that Jane was grateful for Mark’s efforts, considerate of his other tasks, and matter-of-fact that she needed Mark’s report. When I viewed the face-to-face video, I wrote that Jane was indecisive and that her body language didn’t convey the urgency of her request. Her non-verbal communication did not indicate that she had to have the report as soon as possible. This exercise demonstrated that the same text, delivered in different media with different tonality, can convey different meanings. Effective communication varies in spirit, tone, timing, and considers the personality the communicators (Stolovitch, 2011).

Of the three, I believe the voice mail delivered the message in the best fashion. Jane was able to convey an understanding that Mark was busy, but also made it clear that she had to have the report he was expected to deliver.

It’s important to consider the method of communication and choose the one that is most effective. Some team members respond well to email while others are inundated and do not give an email its proper attention. Some team members welcome face-to-face discussion because the other team member took the time to keep them informed. On the other side of that, others may feel face-to-face is confrontational and awkward. An effective project manager can communicate is willing and able to communicate in different manners and can choose the method that works best for the client or individual team members. Budrovich (2011) notes an example where the CIO of a company required face-to-face meetings because he didn’t respond well to email. The project manager needs to adjust their method of delivery to the needs of the stakeholders for the most effective delivery.

References

Budrovich, V. (2011), Video Podcast: Practitioner voices: Strategies for working with stakeholders. Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=4744647&Survey=1&47=6523831&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=1&bhcp=1

Stolovitch, H. (2011), Video Podcast: Communicating with stakeholders. Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/crs/default.learn?CourseID=4744647&Survey=1&47=6523831&ClientNodeID=984650&coursenav=1&bhcp=1

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Learning from a Project “Post-Mortem”

March 11, 2011

For this blog post, I need to do a post-mortem for a project that I select. I need to think about a project I’ve completed and take a critical look at what went right and what could be improved upon.

Project

I’m selecting a project I undertook 2 years ago to update the FrameMaker templates for our training manuals. The templates have been used for many years and they are bloated with extra paragraph and character styles that writers rarely use. Also, the template varies from book to book as authors add styles that they prefer. The result is that templates have over 70 paragraph styles and over 25 character styles, only a fraction of which are used with any frequency.

Successes

I was able to create a much shorter list using roughly 25 paragraph styles and 10 character styles. I focused on the styles that were used most often in the books. This was a tedious process but it identified the styles that had to remain. For the styles that were no longer needed, I found replacements  that closely mirrored the original appearance and function.

I also worked with the translation vendor to identify the costs of changing from an obsolete paragraph style to something else. With roughly 2000 pages of training materials, translation cost is the biggest expense of the training group. I had to make sure that the cost of switching paragraph styles was low. The vendor identified a couple conversions that would be expensive so I omitted those paragraph swaps from my final proposal.

Obstacles

Unfortunately I was not thorough in my assessment of the translation costs. I focused on the conversion from one paragraph style to another. While most of the conversions would not affect the translation cost, the vendor insisted on a process called DTP (desktop publishing). The DTP costs were significant because every page had to be reviewed in every language to make sure that the paragraph switch did not change the spacing or cause page reflow. This project was undertaken during the economic downturn so there was no money to spend on DTP and the project had to be dropped.

Even if costs had not been a factor, there was another obstacle I did not anticipate either. Some writers were very attached to their paragraph styles. They added them for a specific purpose and weren’t interested in hearing about the replacements I was suggesting. If my suggestions changed the indent or font slightly, they would argue why theirs was better and necessary. Unfortunately, my manager who suggested the project was one of the people who couldn’t give up their paragraph styles either. Without funds and without managerial support, the project was abandoned.


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