Thursday, November 18, 2010

Week 3 - Communicating with Stakeholders

Assignment:   view the multimedia program "The Art of Effective Communication." In this program, you will observe a piece of communication in three different modalities: as written text, as audio, and as video. Pause after receiving the communication in each modality, and reflect upon what you interpret the message to mean. Think about the content and tone of the message. Record your interpretation of the message after receiving it in each modality. Post your interpretation of the message as it was delivered in each of the different modalities, pointing out what, if anything, changed about your interpretation from one modality to the next. Then share a synthesis of your thoughts regarding what this activity implies about communicating with members of a project team. What did you learn that will help you communicate more effectively with others in the future?

It is likely not a surprise to anyone that effective communication is vital to successful project management. Through communication we are able to share and exchange information with others, as well as influence another’s behavior, attitudes and understandings (Portny et al. (2008). Communications style differ amongst individuals and what works well with one person may not work as well with another. It is important that we develop an awareness of our own communication style and how that style influences what we view as effective communication. For example, my communication style in a professional setting whether written or verbal, tends to be very direct and specific. I make requests and attach dates and times to my requests (ie: please let me know by Friday end of business when I can expect to receive the financial report for the Kensington project). For me, I have to be responsible that sometimes my communication can be too direct, and depending upon my audience I may have to alter the tone of the message.

When I consider the message delivered by the three different forms of communication, I would say that for me, the most effective style was the email, however having said that, I was not impressed with the message itself and believed it to be ineffective. I viewed the email first and my interpretation of said email was that Jane needed something from Mark, she was understanding of his schedule, but needed it soon. She seemed cordial, but languid in her request. For example, she was not at all specific in what she needed she only said “the report”, with no further information about what report, and no specifics about when she needed it. She stated “soon” which is open for interpretation. She further did not request that Mark get back to her to acknowledge that he got the message and by when she could expect the report.

The second message delivered by voicemail was similar in that it lacked the necessary details. Again, she seemed cordial and understanding of his time, but her tone had a hint of blame. My interpretation was that she was kind of blaming him that she could not get her report done. There seemed to be a hint of desperation in her voice as well, however the lack of details and a specific request of by when he could send the information negated any urgency.

The third message delivered face to face was the least effective. Her body language and tone of voice left me with the impression that although she wanted the information, there was no need to rush. She seemed like she was just asking for the report because she was “supposed to”.

What I learned from this exercise was that it is important to know your audience and to be very specific with regards to ones requests. If I were on the receiving end of the message in this exercise, I am not sure that I would have taken the actions that Jane intended for me to take in a timely manner. Jane assumed that I knew what report she was talking about, and she assumed that I would get it to her “soon”. Soon for me is likely different then soon for her. Being specific is very important. Second, with regards to knowing your audience, people will perceive communication in different ways, and it is important that whenever possible, we review our communication to ascertain if it could be perceived by another in a way unintended.


Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, & Sutton, (2008). Project Management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.


  1. Hello,
    That's a very concise summary. I also felt like the email was the better of the three messages we were to critique. When I first read the message, I assumed Mark knew what report she was talking about. However, now that you've brought it to my attention, I do agree that she should have specified what report. There is a possibility that as a professional, he could have been working on several different things. So, she did need to be more specific. Likewise, I thought the video was the least effective as well based on the tonality and body language of the sender. To me, she appeared to be simply talking to a friend in a casual conversation. There was no sense of urgency. Just as you stated, she seemed to be going through the motions. It was almost like she didn't care when he got the report to her, as long as she made an attempt to get it from him.

  2. Hello Marne,

    i agree that the e-mail could have been more specific in the details. For me, sending any kind of e-mail, I am so specific about everything. One of my colleagues stated out of all of the e-mails that he receives, mine are very professional in nature. I request that my e-mail receiver send me a confirmation that they understand. I usually will ask them a question or have them advise on a certain situation.

    It never occurred to me that the lady was not specific in the voice mail. I guess that I naturally assumed that the receiver knew what she was talking about.

    Personally, I hate leaving voice mail messages, it is hard to remember what to say. I don't want it to appear that I am reading from something. I want it to sound as natural as possible. I try to be specific when leaving a voice mail message, but sometimes it never happens quite the way I want it to go.

    As you stated, the lady at the cubicle was making an attempt in informing her colleague of the report. I would not even label it a concerted effort by any means.

  3. I agreed with you that there was not enough details for it to be an effective message. If it were a true business setting, a person could be working on numerous projects and numerous reports. Like at my job, we pull book orders for Mail-a-Book patrons mail. I could end up with about 30-50 orders a day, and if my fellow employee came up to me and said "Did you get that order pulled?" There would be no possible way for me to know which order she is speaking of. She would have to say, "Did you pull the order for Rose Barclay that was e-mailed in?"

    I agree that the e-mail was the lesser of the three evils.

  4. You nailed it in your analysis of the face-to-face message: no sense of urgency, and little of personal ownership. (She requested the information merely because she was "supposed to"; and if she didn't get it, she wouldn't be losing sleep.)

    You also made the very good point that no specifics were given. It refers to deadlines, but the messages don't provide a timeline. "Soon" could mean before lunch, sometime today, or by early next week, for all we know.

    In any case, I, too, thought the email message was probably, and unexpectedly, the most effective. It at least created some visceral sense of need to provide the data with minimal delay.