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Communication Strategies For Teams

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Co-Author: Marie Garnett

Co-Author: Marie Garnett

Published in: Technology, Business

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  • 1. Communication Strategies for Research Teams Marie Garnett and Mark Childs Learning and Development Centre
  • 2. Workshop Outline
    • What are the common issues in communication?
    • Pros and cons of various communication tools
    • Sharing `good practice’
    • Preparing a `communication strategy’
  • 3. Individual Activity (1)
    • Capture the essence of effective communication in your team in a short descriptive paragraph.
    • (Two or three participants will be selected to summarise their picture / paragraph to the rest of the group.)
  • 4. Individual Activity (2)
    • Make a brief note of any communication issues that your team have faced in the last 12 months.
    • What was the specific problem?
    • What do you think caused it?
    • How could you plan to avoid it happening again?
    • ( These will be shared and discussed at the end of the workshop).
  • 5. What communication tools are available?
    • Meetings
    • One-to-one conversations
    • Telephone
    • Blogs
    • Email / mailing lists
    • Discussion boards
    • Social networking sites
    • Wikis
    • Instant messaging / VoIP / Videoconferencing / MUVEs
  • 6. Individual Activity
    • Complete the first three columns of the `Communication Strategies Matrix’ for a team that you are currently working in:-
    • Who do you need to communicate with?
    • What do you need to communicate with them about?
    • When do you need to communicate with them?
    • As we go through the next section of the workshop note down the communication tools that you could use, with some of their pros and cons.
  • 7. Features of Communication Tools
    • Synchronous or Asynchronous
    • Adhoc or Planned
    • `Push’ or `Pull’
    • Conveyance or Convergence
    • Also consider, can you
    • Rehearse?
    • Revise?
    • Archive?
  • 8. Activity
    • In small groups, select three or four of the communication tools. Brainstorm the pros and cons of each. Note them onto a flipchart paper and be prepared to discuss them with the full group.
  • 9. Meetings
    • Pros
    • Help to build relationships.
    • Use non-verbal as well as verbal cues.
    • Can be good for making group decisions.
    • Can share and discuss ideas.
    • Can discuss allocation of roles and responsibilities.
    • Usually result in a formal record which can be kept and referred to.
  • 10. Meetings
    • Cons
    • Can be difficult to schedule.
    • Expensive in terms of time.
    • Everyone may not contribute.
    • Hard to get the balance between formal and informal.
    • May be too structured or not structured enough.
  • 11. One-to-One Conversations
    • Pros
    • Can sort problems / issues out quickly.
    • Doesn’t have to be scheduled in advance.
    • Can focus on individual’s contribution.
    • Cons
    • There is often no formal record.
    • Other team members are not party to discussions or decisions reached.
  • 12. Telephone
    • Pros
    • Instant access (if recipient answers!).
    • Widely available technology.
    • Can conclude `business’ quickly.
    • Cons
    • No non-verbal cues.
    • Usually no record of what was said / agreed.
    • More difficult to establish rapport.
  • 13. Blogs
    • Pros
    • Easy to use.
    • Good for recording ideas spontaneously.
    • Can `tag’ entries, which makes them easy to sort.
    • Cons
    • Only intended for one-way communication.
    • May require a change in practice.
  • 14. Email
    • Pros
    • Everything arrives in one place.
    • Widely available and easy to use.
    • Good for conveying information.
    • Cons
    • Can be difficult to get a response.
    • Can be inundated with emails.
    • Can be difficult to archive and search.
  • 15. Mailing Lists
    • Pros
    • Ensures everyone on the team receives emails.
    • Requires only one email address.
    • Cons
    • If users press `reply’ then everyone may receive a personal email.
    • Can become inundated with emails.
    • Users may still use individual email addresses.
  • 16. Discussion Boards
    • Pros
    • Correspondance is archived.
    • Threads make separate dialogue easier to follow.
    • Cons
    • May have to visit a specific URL to access.
    • Can require a separate password.
  • 17. Social Networking Sites
    • Pros
    • Incorporates several communication tools.
    • High degree of user configurability.
    • Cons
    • These are primarily designed as social spaces.
    • May require a change in work practice.
  • 18. Wikis
    • Pros
    • Multiple users can work on a single piece of text.
    • No version control problems.
    • Previous versions of the text are kept.
    • Cons
    • Wiki platforms can be difficult to use.
    • Reticence to alter colleague’s work.
  • 19. Instant Messaging…
    • Pros
    • Facilitate adhoc communication between individuals or groups at a distance.
    • Can be a good substitute for `face to face’.
    • Technology / software costs are minimal.
    • Cons
    • Requires a change in working practice.
    • Spontaneity can be negative.
    • May still be difficult to schedule meetings.
    • Technical issues may be a barrier.
  • 20. Activity
    • In small groups, select three or four of the communication tools. Share tips and guidance on how to use each tool effectively.
    • Note these down on flipchart paper and be prepared to share them with the full group.
  • 21. Meetings
    • Good Practice
    • Agree an agenda and circulate in advance.
    • Use meetings for discussion and not for conveying information.
    • Establish and agree a schedule of meetings.
    • Circulate minutes and agreed actions as soon as possible after the meeting.
  • 22. Telephone
    • Good Practice
    • Check it is convenient to talk.
    • Prepare notes and use them to guide the telephone conversation.
    • Make brief notes of the conversation plus actions agreed and forward them to the recipient for confirmation.
  • 23. Blogs
    • Good Practice
    • Ensure users update regularly.
    • Share and agree specific `tags’.
    • Be careful about privacy settings.
    • Interlink the blogs so that they can be accessed from the same portal.
  • 24. Email
    • Good Practice
    • Determine who needs to be contacted with what information.
    • Use for conveying information rather than making decisions.
    • Observe netiquette guidance.
    • Never hit “Reply All” without reading who’s in the recipient list.
  • 25. Mailing Lists
    • Good Practice
    • Check that members of the team wish to have a list set up for them.
    • Remind team members to use mailing lists, where they exist.
  • 26. Discussion Boards / Forums
    • Good Practice
    • Get agreement to set up email forwarding from discussion boards.
    • Assign someone to moderate the discussion board.
    • Discussion boards require a minimum level of activity.
    • Sometimes `time limited’ debates work better.
  • 27. Social Networking Sites
    • Good Practice
    • Use only where team members are comfortable with using the software.
    • Ensure all users understand how to use the privacy levels.
  • 28. Wikis
    • Good Practice
    • Explain the process and requirements in advance.
    • Give everyone permission to alter each other’s work.
    • Nominate an editor to format the entry.
    • Give a deadline for working on the text.
  • 29. Instant Messaging…
    • Good Practice
    • Do not have them constantly turned on.
    • Establish time when you / team will be available.
    • Have trial runs with new users.
    • Provide training where appropriate.
    • Register separately to use the site for social activities.
  • 30. Preparing a Communication Strategy
    • Use a small number of communication media.
    • Anticipate time spent on communication.
    • `Push’ technologies work best with people that have less time commitment.
    • `Pull’ technologies require more effort to be successfully implemented.
    • Agree and commit to a communication strategy.
  • 31. Individual Activity
    • Review your `Communication Strategies Matrix’ and draft out a possible communication strategy for your project team.
  • 32. Question and (hopefully) Answers!
    • Looking back to your `critical incident log’ do you feel that you now have the `tools’ to address the issues that you outlined? If not, what questions would you still like to raise?
    • Looking back to your descriptive paragraph of effective communication in your team do you feel that you now have the tools to implement this? If not, what questions would you still like to raise?