LAFS PREPRO Session 9 - Communications


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Project Management Lecture for Session 9 of The Los Angeles Film School's Game PreProduction course.

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LAFS PREPRO Session 9 - Communications

  1. 1. Session 9 David Mullich Game PreProduction The Los Angeles Film School
  2. 2. Communications Plan  A Communications Plan specifies when and how team members communicate:  Audience: Who will receive the communication Information Needs: What information is being conveyed Media: How is the information conveyed Timing: When it is conveyed Responsibility: Who is sending the information    
  3. 3. Meetings Meeting purposes  Brainstorming Sessions  Kickoff Meeting  Daily Status Update Meetings  Weekly Team Gatherings  Project Review  Ad Hoc Meeting
  4. 4. Meeting Types Problem solving  Decision making  Planning  Feedforward (status reporting)  Feedback (reacting and evaluating)  Consensus building  Combination meetings 
  5. 5. Premeeting Define the meeting purpose  Decide on the meeting format  Decide how long it should run  Decide who should invite  Circulate the agenda 
  6. 6. Running a Meeting Open with a short summary of its purpose and agenda  Allow parties to express their opinions  Keep irrelevant debate to a minimum  Wrap up meeting with informing people what the next steps are 
  7. 7. Post Meeting Keep a record of the meeting  Send out any promised resources  Follow up on how the next steps are progressing  Contact members who didn't get heard or were unsatisfied with results 
  8. 8. Email Email is certainly the most used communications medium for virtual teams. It’s easy. It’s convenient. But it can also be misused. Here are some tips I have for using email.  Always include a subject line and make sure it tells the recipient what the email is about.  If the topic of the discussion changes during the course of an email discussion, change the subject line, especially if you are forwarding the email discussion to a different group of recipients. E.g., don’t keep the subject line as “Nice to meet you” if you are now deep into contract negotiations.
  9. 9. Email     Keep messages brief and to the point. Write short paragraphs, separated by blank lines. Most people find unbroken blocks of text boring, or even intimidating. Take the time to format your message for the ease of your reader. If your email does contain multiple messages that are only loosely related, number your points to ensure they are all read. If the points are substantial enough, split them up into separate messages so your recipient can delete, answer, file, or forward each item individually. Email is clunky for sending attachments, especially large ones; so only include attachments when necessary. Don’t attach a Word document to send text that could have typed into the body instead. Send group email only when it's useful to every recipient. Use the "reply all" button only when compiling results requiring collective input and only if you have something to add. Recipients get quite annoyed to open an email that says only "I agree!"
  10. 10. Instant Messaging While email is great for asynchronous messaging, it’s not so great for realtime communications or for lengthy discussions. In a real-time world, many teams choose to use instant for daily communication. The expected response time for responding via instant messaging is much shorter than it would be for an email. This makes quick, spontaneous back and forth conversations easier via instant messaging, yet instant messaging still allows flexibility for an asynchronous conversation – just usually a much quicker one. It is an effective way of working through a particularly thorny issue because it doesn’t carry the potential lag that emails often do. Lying somewhere between an email and a phone call, an instant message conversation doesn’t have to interrupt someone in the middle of working on something else, but also carries a sense of urgency for a relatively fast response. Instant messaging also improves team cohesion (informal chatter – and jokes – that often bring co-virtual teams together) and can help provide levity and stress relief, as well as build camaraderie.
  11. 11. Discussion Boards Instant messages are often not durable. It is not guaranteed that the person at the other end will see it if they aren't at their computer, and if your team posts a lot of instant messages over the course of a day, it’s easy to lose track of an important conversation. This can be a major problem when, for example, having a disagreement with a client for a milestone delivery but neither party can easily find what was discussed about that matter in a chat from several weeks ago. For text-based communications where it is important to keep a record of the discussion, use a discussion board like Basecamp. Whenever I have a new item to review or discuss with a client, I create a new discussion thread for that topic. I then select which members of my team or the client’s team will receive email alerts when a new comment is posted on the thread. Months later, I can go back and review the discussion if there is any disagreement about what was said by either party in relation to that topic.
  12. 12. Phone Calls Text-based communication also isn’t great for sending confusing or emotional messages. Think of the times you've heard someone in an office indignantly say, "Well, I sent you email" when they didn’t get the reaction they were seeking. Even when things are going smoothly, one shouldn’t use text as an excuse to avoid personal contact, which is essential for having individuals work together as a team. Problems also arise when one misinterprets emotions in a text message. If you have a problem with someone, you should speak with that person directly. Don't use email to avoid an uncomfortable situation or to cover up a mistake. When email discussion gets tense, move to a more personal touch point such as the telephone or voice chat.
  13. 13. Phone Calls Regular voice communication should be used even when things are going smoothly. When teams are co-located, that is to say all sitting in the same room or part of the office, a lot of informal communication occurs. Things are overheard in conversation that others might decide to chime in on, or side conversations might spark other questions or ideas. Also, there is a chance to let off steam and overall build a sense of team through quick conversations about interests, jokes, tools, tips, etc. These types of informal communication also serve as an important way to create a sense of team, building collective trust and improving morale. Of course, having face-to-face communication or even voice-to-voice communication is rather difficult in a virtual office working in far-flung locations. I make it a point to schedule regular voice calls, scheduling them with geographic considerations in mind. I make my calls to Europe in the morning (when it is near the end of the day), to East Coast team members during my midday, and team members in Asia in the evening (their morning).