Join Doug Rose for an in-depth discussion in this video Sending one-way communication, part of Project Management Foundations: Communication.
A few years ago an Italian cargo ship called the Monte Christo was captured by pirates. The crew was shuffled to the bottom of the ship and the pirates seized control. The crew wrote the pirates location on a small piece of paper and stuffed it in a bottle. They put a light in the bottle and tossed it overboard into the sea. The NATO ships retrieved the bottle, they read the note, and knew that the crew was safe. So they focused on taking the ship. The pirates gave up and no one was hurt. One-way communication saved the day. Your projects will probably not have pirates, but certain to have one-way communication.
In fact almost all of your communication will be one-way communication. One-way communication is the inforamtion that is pushed by someone or pulled from someone else. A good example of one-way communication is E-mail. It's a message pushed from someone into your inbox. Project managers are working in a golden age of one-way communication. Think of all the E-mail, reports, and memos that you receive, then think of all the websites you visit. It might seem like you spend your entire day consuming one-way communication.
Another example of one-way communication is a website. You pull the information from someone who posted to a web server. A website is the most common, but information can come from many different sources. If you're reading a road sign, then you're pulling a message from the sign. One-way communication has become so prevalent that many project managers forget about its disadvantages. You should think of E-mail or websites as not that much different from throwing a bottle into the briny sea. One-way communication lacks facial expression and the speaker's tone of voice.
There is often little chance for follow up. That means that in many messages your audience doesn't know what they don't understand. So misinformation can creep in without anyone knowing. There's also limited ways to check that your message was read. This was a big problem with the crew of the Monte Cristo. They never knew if their message was read or still just floating in the sea. This makes one-way communication pretty limited. So be sure to mostly use one-way communication for notice. You are notifying someone that something has happened.
E-mail is perfect for a notification like "functional review board meeting cancelled." It would be risky for a message like "your performance at the presentation." The first message is notice and unlikely to be misinterpreted. The other is likely to have emotional baggage. As a project manager, you should always follow up any questions from a one-way message with a two-way conversation. If there is a question, it usually means that your message wasn't really a notification and it's likely to be misunderstood.
For one-way communication that you pull from somewhere else you should limit the message to reporting. Report should be a simple summary of what you know. The language should be clear. A good report is like a billboard. You should even think of reports and memos as one big billboard. Imagine a billboard that said, "If you find that you are in need of gasoline "for the automobile you're driving, "you should be proactive and start to move "towards the right. "This will give you the opportunity to exit "and purchase gasoline from our facility "which is located proximate to the exit." But that's how a lot of reports are written.
Use clear language and you'll have an easier time communicating your message. Your report should use language like, "The team will complete the documents "for the screen design on October 20th." You should avoid language like, "Given what the team knows now, "after we receive the information "from other departments, "we'll expect a complete draft of the design "at the end of this quarter." Wordy answers lead to confusion and are likely to be misread. For all one-way communication you should only create low emotion messages.
Emotions are almost impossible to interpret through one-way messages. Think about how often you've read an E-mail that sounded sad or angry and you later talked to the person and they said they were just tired or in a rush. Behavior scientists tell us that we think we understand emotions in texts, but in reality most of us depend on tone and facial expressions to help us interpret the sender's meaning. So think about how facial expressions and tone of voice adds to communications. Take a simple statement like, "I don't understand what you mean." It sounds inquisitive.
If I say it this way, "I don't understand what you mean." It sounds angry and defensive and this is a simple six word sentence. If this were an E-mail, there might be several areas of miscommunication. We are also not very good at writing emotion. Most emotion we want to communicate is lost in E-mail, reports, and memos. If you want to communicate frustration or empathy, it's often lost in the message. Even when the emotion is found, it's often misunderstood. If you want to send a one-way message be certain to understand what works best.
If you're message is high in emotion or unclear, then use two-way communication. If it's simple and mundane, then just use E-mail or a report.
Lynda.com is a PMI Registered Education Provider. This course qualifies for professional development units (PDUs). To view the activity and PDU details for this course, click here.
The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
- Using formal and informal means to communicate
- Prioritizing stakeholder needs
- Listening actively
- Planning project communication
- Understanding leadership language
- Writing clear and concise project reports
- Learning how and when to say "no"<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.