Thursday, September 22, 2011

Communicating Effectively

My textbook states that communication is "sharing the right messages with the right people in a timely manner" (Portny, 2008). So the assignment this week was to look at the same message being presented in three different way; email, voicemail and in person. Of course without even looking at the presentation I knew that face-to-face was going to be the best answer. After reading a bunch of different articles this week that talked about communication, face-to-face with a follow up email is the safest bet. But this little module really sent the message home!

The site took the same message and gave it to you in an email, voicemail and with a video of someone saying it right to you. When I first read the email it started off with a nice tone checking to see if the recipient was still in a meeting and quickly shifted gears to an aggressive manner with full disregard to the well being of the recipient. (This is why I always tell people to be careful what you text, because tone is very hard to read).
The voicemail sounded much more pleasant than the email read. But it still came across a little hard towards the end. But the major difference was that the last line of the voicemail said "I really appreciate your help." Now when I read the 9 line email I didn't even notice this last sentence, and looking back it had its own line and everything. I think I was too frustrated by reading the intense message that I didn't even read the final line, it just looked like a closing remark. It made me reflect on all the times I have written a hard to swallow message and ended with a kind remark to soften the blow, and wonder how many people actually read the last line.
I was so blown away by my new discovery with the voicemail I felt there could not possibly be that big of a difference with the in person message. Wrong again! People's mannerism speak volumes, many more volumes than their words or tone of voice. After listening to the woman speak the lines I have just read and heard mere second before, I have a completely different feeling about the message. Her stance, smile and casual eye contact made all the difference in the world.  It didn't feel aggressive at all, in fact had I really been the fictitious recipient I would have happily finished up my portion of the project.

Communication is not just words, it is also spirit and attitude, tonality and body language, timing and consideration of the personality of the recipient (Stolovitch, n.d.). The importance of these different elements of communication were definitely displayed in this exercise. This 5 minute module really brought the true value of communication to light. In a similar situation I would have quickly shot out an email to get my person back on task and not thought for a minute to communicate my needs in a different way. But I now know that a little leg work and a smile can go a much longer way.


Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Stolovitch, Harold. (n.d.). Communicating with Stakeholders. Retrieved on September 21, 2011 at

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Project Post Mortem

I was asked this week to discuss a past project that I was a part of that failed or did not reach the expected outcomes. It took me a while to think of an example, and as I type these words I am silently praying for a better example than the one I am most likely about to give. But as the beginning of the school year, with so many changes, the brain can only do so much. So my example will have to be as follows.

Last year I went to a training on a website that teachers in my city were able to find their testing statistics and scores. At the actual training I learned that the site could generate worksheets, additional tests and other items based on individual scores. I was very interested in the program and could see how it could benefit our school (the lowest in the district) and teachers in raising test scores. After talking with the principal (whom I has a less than desirable relationship with) I was given one week to develop a training to present to the staff.

With this limited timeline to develop a training about a product I was excited about but had only had 2 hours of training on and limited usage, I was frantic to try and piece something together. My presentation ended up being a simple power point that I hardly used because of the uncomfortable space and slow computer that I was given for my trainings. I was also only given 25 minutes to share this information with each grade level, so that students were not left for long periods of time with a substitute. "Because employees' training time causes managers to be shorthanded during the training period, it is important that the project team focus on what employees need to know versus what would be nice to know. So the training ended up focusing on the basics of the program instead of the "bells and whistles" that set it apart from other data driven websites.

Because I was so intrigued by the massive abilities of the program I was able to convey this excitement in the trainings. Teachers were interested in using the program to push their test scores and use the offerings as supplements to their lessons. I ended up having private lessons with those teachers who were really interested in the additional aspects of the program so they could fully understand how to work the site.
I really believe that if I had been given more than a week to plan and more than 25 minutes to share the training would have been more of a success. Even with the limitations several teachers were able to use the program to help them move their students academically.

Murphy, C. (1994). Utilizing project management techniques in the design of instructional materials. Performance & Instruction, 33(3), 9–11.