Program teams will be faced with the necessity to make critical decisions, secure buy-in and get approvals. The details of these activities must be over-communicated in the fast-paced environment of a cross-functional program team. With the technology of cloud computing, Skype, Webex, Netmeeting and conference calls the communication gaps related to co-located teams can also be eliminated. The more the program manager is driving the thought of “over-communication” into their teams, the more likely the team will be successful.
The critical skill of communication has some soft skill implications. In order to communicate effectively, the program manager must be likable, articulate, reasonable and have integrity. They must also be able to build a good rapport with clients, customers, stakeholders and team members.
In times where technology permits fast accumulation of unfiltered information, the program manager must use caution to only push out information that is useful to the recipient, whether it is for the recipient’s benefit or to solicit a response. Communication stops when too much time is required to dig through data to attempt to determine what is required. This is true for project schedules, as well. Program managers that create 600 line timelines and then expect a team member to quickly understand all dependencies and personal deliverables is charting a course for failure. So, the right amount of information is critical. Too much, and it’s overwhelming. Too little, and it’s a watered down executive summary that doesn’t contain enough information to provide context.
Each function on the cross-functional team has an expected deliverable. That deliverable is made up of functionality, cost, timing and quality components. The secret to success is in knowing what information they require to get their job done and what information they need to be sharing downstream so serial activities can anticipate their output. The purpose of team meetings is to transfer that information between functional groups with the program manager riding herd. Some projects are in critical shape and a “daily stand-up” meeting is required. Others are either under control or at a lull in activity and can get by with a longer weekly team meeting. The successful program manager will strike the right balance so team members feel that they are benefiting from taking time out of their day for communication.