Life by Design

Archive for November 2010

 

These days, we all have so many options for how to relay a message to one another.  We can employ email, text messages, Instant Messages; voice mail and good old f2f visits.  Each person has a preference of how they prefer to receive information, especially at the work place.   In working on a project that involves team collaboration, it is especially important to learn the preferences of your teammates and key stakeholders of your project.

 

This blog assignment was interesting as we heard the same essential message delivered in three different styles:  email, voice mail and an f2f visit (filmed as a video).  As I went through the exercise, it was interesting to note the various reactions I had based on the venue of the communication.  Overall, I interpreted the message to mean that a colleague needs some important information from me that appears to be late, missing and if obtained, could help her meet a work deadline of her own.

 

I preferred the email text format the best and I felt it relayed the essential meaning of the message the best of the three choices.  I experienced a level of respect for what my time demands might be in light of the request of the message sender.  The email option made it easy for me to get the missing data to her in a separate email.  I felt the email was friendly, respectful and to the point.  I like email as I can access it when I have the time in a focused way and I can keep a digital paper trail of the conversation.  I can also re-read the email if I have questions or need to review directions or a special request.

 

The voice mail simulation gave the impression that the communication was more direct and less friendly than the email.  The sender struck me as a very direct person, with little to no humor and a lack of ‘human touch’.  Her tone of voice made it seem that her needs were more important than what I have been facing in my own work life.

 

The f2f meeting as simulated by a video seemed most negative to me.  I noticed the gal pointing her finger at times.  There was little attempt to engage me in a friendly manner and her Cheshire style grin at the very end felt insincere and ill timed.  Why didn’t she start with a smile and a friendly, ‘Hello? Is this a good time to talk with you?”

 

Clearly, content and tone are very important in communication.  The flat tone of the voice on the voice mail was a turn off.  I felt degrees of judgment and blame in the voice mail and f2f communication.

 

The implications of my personal learning in this exercise has led me to understand the value of understanding what kind of communication my teammates and stakeholders prefer, and to communicate my preferences as well.  Everyone will have his or her own preferences.  With voice mail and f2f visits, you get the added benefit of seeing body language and hearing tone of voice, which may or may not be pleasant!

 

References

 

Stolovitch, H. (2010), “Communicating with Stakeholders”.  Laureate Education, Inc. Video production.

 

Stolotvitch, H. (2010). “Project Management Concerns:  Communication Strategies and Organizational Culture”.  Laureate Education, Inc. Video Production.

 

 

 

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Recently, a team member and I were given the assignment of creating instructional videos to show students how to utilize strategies that we have created to help them complete research on the Internet.  My team member and I had no prior training or familiarity with using application like Jing or SnapzPro, which are screencasting applications.  I had learned from my courses at Walden that at the very least we needed to story board our process and I did do that much.

We began in June, 2010,  to create videos demonstrating the steps a student would take to create what we call a ‘digital notebook’ and how to begin to do Web research, creating good search questions, and finally extracting relevant information from the Internet to meet their project needs.

Both of us felt that we were making good progress.  The videos were clear and did a good job of demonstrating our process.

However, when our boss reviewed the work by mid-July, we got the news that the videos were completely inappropriate.  She changed the content, the approach and made a request for a ‘more professional appearance’ with special features such as the ability to highlight text, zooming capabilities and so on.  Six weeks of work was essentially thrown out.  I have to say that my team member and I felt demoralized.  I do give us tremendous credit for stepping into a project cold, learning new applications and devising a strategy on our own to set up a small video production team.

Now, after being introduced to all the steps necessary in professional Project Management, I can see that the first major error was the lack of an initial meeting that clearly and explicitly defined the video project.  My team member and I needed a clear vision of the end product.  One of my favorite guidelines for planning anything is, “Begin with the end in mind.”

If I had to do this over again, or could function more as a Project Manager for the project I would follow the steps recommended by Michael Greer (2010):

1.     Define the project concept and get support and approval from stakeholders. In this case I want specific and very explicit definitions of the expectations of the final product.

2.     Get the team together and start the project.

3.     Figure out exactly what the finished work product will be.  This will be informed by the information gathered in Step 1.

4.     Figure out what you need to do to complete the work products.  Identify tasks and phases.  I would also include here a preliminary testing of various applications of technology, so that we choose the most appropriate tool for the job, and get adequate tutorials to inform ourselves on the process before we begin.

5.     Estimate time, effort and resources.  In our case, we need to define upfront in the initial product scope meeting, if we have adequate computer equipment and facility space to do the projects we are given.

6.     Build a schedule.  I would add that we needed to define from Step 1 the exact nature of the deadlines.  If there is a hard and fast deadline, I want our team to be able to meet the deadline with unnecessary stress.

7.     Estimate the costs.

8.     Keep the project moving.  Have face-to-face meetings with our major stakeholder on a regular basis so that reviews of our work can happen often and early into the project before we do a large body of work that is later deemed ‘inappropriate’.

9.     Handle scope changes.  I am happy to handle scope changes, as I understand that this is part of the territory.  However, the stakeholders need to realize that the time frames are greatly impacted by every content change in a project.

10. Close out phases, and close out the project.

Also, I would let the ID process guide the project starting with a needs and feasibility analysis and continue with all the ADDIE steps.  We needed a clear blueprint, project plan, Work Breakdown Structure, Project Scope Statement, Gantt chart to help schedule the project to meet projected deadlines, and checklists to keep the project moving.

By starting from a good place of planning and communication, I believe our video production would have been successful the first time around.

Reference

Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate Custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.

Stolovitch, H. (2010) “Project Management and Instructional Design”. Laureate Education, Inc. Video Production.

I am looking forward to working, collaborating and sharing new knowledge with all of you in this class.  From what I have seen of actually working in the field, this topic could not be more important!  Best wishes to each of you as we continue to journey forth!