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Agile Tips for Better Communication

 

Incorporating agile practices can help reduce miscommunication (P1)

Introduction

Agile project management is an alternative to traditional project management, and is designed to be responsive to ever changing customer wants, business insights, and industry trends. Its responsive nature is supported through the adoption of a more transparent and collaborative workplace. Teams looking to adopt agile can implement standardized practices to help do this. We looked at a few practices used to help improve transparency in a previous article – “Agile Life.” In this article we will look at the agile approach to effective collaboration.

About 90% of a project manager’s time is spent communicating. If this communication is not effective, and the channels used are not appropriate, a lot of time is wasted and a substandard product will be delivered in the end.(1)

Agile’s emphasis on collaborative and iterative development requires teams to have a frequent exchange of ideas. To avoid the drawbacks from an increased time spent communicating, communication protocols are implemented to help streamline the process. Such protocols include; suitable channels, clear objectives, and restricted time frames.

 
 
Communication Channels

Select the right communication channel for your communication objective (P2)

Selecting The Right Communication Channel

It is important to select the right communication channel. The best channel is determined by factors such as the location of the participants, their level of preparation, and the amicability between    them.(2It is also important to use the most suitable communication channel(s) based on the complexity of the information to be communicated. However, it must be noted that the richness of a communication channel does not necessarily improve its ability to communicate complex ideas. Therefore to get your team up to speed, paper documents maybe better than face-to-face conversations. Once the team has been briefed, a meeting can be held to collect feedback and resolve any concerns. A meeting such as this, with adequate preparation by the person conducting it, is likely to be more focused, and have a more fruitful outcome. For a comparison of the available communication channels check out our article here.

Mapping out your discussions is a good way of staying on track (P3)

Staying On Point

When executing a project the challenge lies in turning an abstract idea into a tangible offering or product. To do this, multidisciplinary teams need to work in conjunction requiring a constant exchange of ideas. Such high levels of communication need guidance to be able to overcome challenges in a timely manner. Doing this daily seems unfeasible when considering the amount of time usually wasted at meetings. However agile encourages regular meetings. Many agile teams in fact meet at least once a day in a “daily stand up”, where each member answers the following questions:

  • What have I completed since the last meeting?

  • What do I plan to complete by the next meeting?

  • What is getting in my way?

Each members’ time is limited to 5 -10 minutes based on the number of people in the team, and further discussions are encouraged to be held outside the meeting.(3)

Agile teams also spend time improving their operational process, removing redundancies and addressing pain-points. Retrospectives, discussed in our previous article “Agile Life,” are a great way to do this, allowing for a regular analysis of what’s working and what isn’t. The points focused on are:

  • What is working well?

  • What isn’t working and why?

  • What can be done to improve those aspects?

Such exercises not only assist in improving team performance but also instill a culture of collaboration at the root levels of a team.(4)

Sharing success leads to better teamwork (P4)

Collective Success

To build better collaboration, agile organisations celebrate success as a group. Celebrating achievements communicates to team members that their organization values their contribution. Some companies have already started the practice of sharing success among business teams, technology teams, and customers. Unlike individual evaluations, joint celebrations continually connect individuals with their colleagues and their organization, encouraging the change from a more competitive, individualistic mindset to that of a collaborative and collectivist mindset. (4)

Flexibility in project management improves both client and internal relationships (P5)

Conclusion

While the majority of agile companies reside in the software industry many of their practices are commonplace at successful companies across all industries. Employing the practices discussed above can gile significantly improve relationships within and between teams as well as with external collaborators such as your suppliers and customers. Inculcating an agile mindset in team members also leads to a more responsive and collaborative organisation as well as a more conducive environment for project management.

 

   
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