Yesterday I attended a customer communications workshop conducted by Barry Katz . The main focus was on proper communication with clients, but since the audience included personnel with different roles in the same company and some of our customers are employed in the company itself, our discussions tended to gravitate towards intracompany communication.
Throughout the workshop, the issue of a project management triangle was raised over and over again - the need to communicate and find a balance among the three different forces and various stakeholders in a particular project.
We all know the famous project management triangle, where each vertex represents Scope, Time and Cost, with Quality in the middle. Each stakeholder pulls the vertex in his/her direction, while the QA team is smack in the middle, between the development, management and customer. During the workshop, we learned how to facilitate proper communication among the different branches.
Must it always be a win-lose situation? How do you parallel your expectations with those of the other side, and how do you enable each side to feel it got the most out of the situation (we may call this a win-win, but sometimes the idea is simply to make sure no one loses).
There is no magic to communication. It’s all about the way you think, which leads to the way you view a situation, feel about it, and how you act based on those thoughts and feelings. And after you act, there is the inevitable assessment of the results of your actions.
The key is to begin thinking like a winner, with self-respect and confidence, as well as respect and empathy for the other side.
In light of the above, here is a brief list of tips that may help create a more pleasant communication environment:
· The obvious needs to be stated - Everyone knows quality is important, but does everyone know what the impact of an action will be on the quality of the product? Make sure that the issues that are obvious to you are stated and made clear to all stakeholders.
· Propose options that let everyone feel in control - Explain the different options available for action and the results of each action. Help the other side feel it too has control over the situation without detracting from your own control. For example, as part of a QA team, you can provide several options for periods of testing and the expected result of each period. A shorter period of testing would have lower coverage with a bigger risk, while a longer period of testing would have a higher coverage with a lower risk. Using this example, you may want to explain Bach’s “good enough” principle and decide together with the development team and management how your company defines “good enough”.
· Motivate people through free will - Remember, we are all on the same side and we all want our product to be top quality. In an environment where we need to work together, asking someone to do something politely (even if it’s on their task list) is always better than ordering them to do it.
· Motivate people through personal relationships - Try using more personal communication. As part of a QA team, it would be a good idea to maintain a good relationship with the development team, for example, and show the more human side of you when sharing small talk and coffee. During these friendly moments, you can also ask (not demand from) the developer if he/she would be willing to take a look at a bug you discovered. You will probably be pleasantly surprised at his/her willingness to help.
· Maintain a quiet environment - Try lowering the decibels when it comes to bugs. Give the developer the peace of mind he/she needs when tackling a problem that needs to be solved.
Have any other good tips or comments about how to better communicate with development, management and customers? Please feel free to share them with us!