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Andy from The Trades Coach, Part 4: When Communications Go Bad.

Welcome to the latest installment of my series on plugging the profit leaks in your business. This time around, we are talking communications. According to a 2013 Project Management Institute report titled The Essential Role of Communications, “Ineffective communications is the primary contributor to project failure one-third of the time, and had a negative impact on project success more than half the time”. This tends to be backed up with the anecdotal discussions I have with clients when analysing why problems occur. More often than not, it’s caused by some sort of breakdown in communications, or sometimes a series of breakdowns is to blame. It can also happen without you noticing. A missed or wrongly interpreted piece of communication can lead a project running off the rails without anyone noticing until it is too late.

When it comes to successful projects, communication is the glue.

Like a sticky spider web, communication is what connects all the various parties in a build or project. When one or more strands are broken, mistakes can sneak through. The number of parties involved in a project is many and varied: owner(s), architect, engineer, head contractor, sub-contractors, sub-subcontractors, inspectors, neighbours etc. With such a range of people involved, it’s hardly surprising that important information is sometimes missed or miscommunicated. Assumptions are made, instructions are perhaps just verbal, double-checking does not happen, people hear but don’t listen and questions are not raised. With all these possible opportunities for communication errors to occur, what can you do to minimize them?

Avoid communication failures: Change the channel

Effective communication does not just take place in face-to-face meetings, nor is it restricted to emails, calls, and messages. In fact, one of the best ways to communicate effectively is to avoid the email thread and phone tag altogether. By establishing a centralized, up-to-date repository of information, accessible by all parties at any time, you avoid the time-sucking, ad-hoc information requests, and you are able to complete the necessary site meetings in a shorter time frame.

Rave Build’s messaging system fits this need perfectly. Like any business tool however it is not a magic wand. To make the best of the communication features within Rave, you need to ensure supporting policies and procedures are in place also. Some of those best practices for improving cross-team communications include:

  • Commit to a policy that all project information will be in a single location and individuals keeping their own copy is not acceptable. Give your team a single source of truth and one that is accessible 24/7.
  • Don’t allow “knowledge pigs”. I.e Individuals who hog too much information and feel that they need to hold this information to retain control. PS. It might be you.
  • Make sure that the system ensures people are reminded of upcoming activities and commitments.
  • Communication is a 2-way thing. People at the pit-face need to be empowered to push information and questions up to higher levels. Likewise, Owners and head contractors need to ensure information is pushed down the chain of command so everyone is aware of the bigger picture.
  • Simple actions, such as organized agendas, meeting minutes and action items are incredibly valuable. Keeping people reminded, in a simple way, of the small details and having smaller building blocks to check off not only makes the project seem to move along more quickly, but also more smoothly.
  • Keeping a project owner up to date is one of the tasks of project management that is simple to do – but is rarely done effectively. Frequent engagement via project updates will help your cause should you need to request additional budget or time when a project starts to hit some snags. Owners don’t like nasty surprises near the end. Keep owners in the loop from the earliest stage.
  • Ensure the client, subbies and other parties are on-boarded properly at the beginning, and sufficient training and support are provided in how to use the communication system effectively.

To summarise, don’t let poor communication be the reason your project struggles and your stress levels rise! Instead, pay careful attention to the methods you use to communicate – to the small details and notifications for example. Spend some time familiarizing yourself with the communication systems within Rave, and ensure your client and wider team are trained in its use also. Good communication is not just a cornerstone of good project management; it also brings about other benefits in terms of your continued relationships with your project team and your client. Contact me at https://www.tradescoach.co.nz/strategy-session/ and book a free, confidential strategy session. In this session, we will look at how your business is performing and specific ways you can look to improve it.

Andy Burrows

The Trades Coach

Phone: 09-912 1901 or 027 6886721

Website: www.tradescoach.co.nz