COMMUNICATION FOR STARTUPS
April 23, 2020

Startup

Efficient communication for startups

By Alexander Sergeev

The success of a project depends on many factors, one of them is communication. And it’s quite hard to communicate efficiently as there are many totally different people involved in a project: different characters, skills, responsibilities, etc.

So what’s effective communication? Krzysztof Rakowski considers that it’s a situation when the message has the same meaning for both the recipient and the sender.

Why is it important?

One of the most important factors in the success or failure of any IT project is communication. Communicating effectively can be quite difficult, especially when a project involves many people with different backgrounds, experience, skills, responsibilities, and levels of authority. The problem arises when the people involved belong to different organizations with different working guidelines.

Effective communication happens when a message is delivered whose content has the same meaning for the recipient as it does for the sender, thus inciting the desired action. And it’s highly important for each project otherwise lots of problems and misunderstandings will arise. Every company will only benefit from establishing it as it saves money, time, and effort.

How to communicate effectively?

  • A message’s subject should be clear.
  • A message’s content should be easy to comprehend.
  • Be straightforward and precise in your message.
  • Manage efficiently.
  • Engage the resources (people, tools, and so on) you really need and can’t do without (not more) to finish a task.

The results you’ll get:

  • The sustained tempo of a project.
  • Easy to track and keep the progress of a project.
  • Different people (various responsibilities/involvement levels) are better involved in the working process.
  • Employees know that their time is appreciated and used wisely.

3 words describe efficient communication in IT projects: explicitness, traceability, and readability.

Email

The majority of companies use it for both internal and external communication. But not everybody uses it right.

The subject line should be brief and clear, explaining what’s the letter is about.

Examples of good subject lines:

  • ACME Corp. | HR Portal | draft of functional documentation, v. 0.1
  • ACME product page — questions after the meeting with the marketing dept. on March 5th
  • Please, send your report — deadline: March 10th

The correct subject line tells recipients momentarily what’s the content of the letter and do they need to answer it at all. So don’t change the topic in the email text (“BTW, about that other thing, did you…”). It would be better to send a new letter.

“To” and “Cc”  fields are meant for indicating a message addressee and those who should be informed ( without a need to respond) correspondingly.

Another good habit to have is to do everything in writing as people may forget about appointments and arrangements.

Issue-tracking

If’ you’re a manager, collect and store all the issues in one place so the team could track the progress and tasks. Avoid using email for assigning tasks.

Issue-tracking systems (Hygger, Redmine, Mantis BT, Bugzilla, Jira, etc.) will help to build a well-structured process. It would be easier to be aware of the project progress and all the information (sometimes it may even include time-tracking and deadline reminders).

Here are some universal rules you should follow:

  • Each issue should have a clear and descriptive title (“API throws NullPointerException when no attributes provided” or “Typo in the telephone number on the contact page.”).
  • Use such attributes as status, priority, and category as it will make it easier for you to sort and delegate.
  • If a tracker you’ve chosen provides a possibility to set relationships between issues, use it as well. It will be more simple to assign tasks and search for solutions.
  • One issue must contain one thing. This way you can assign each task to different employees.
  • Give all the needed information (links, description, list the necessary steps).
  • Write down everything happening with the issue in comments.

In other words, store everything in the issue tracker. Remember that each task is a separate issue. Also, don’t forget to describe it the best way possible.

Meetings

Meetings may seem a horror as many hours are wasted on them without any result.

But there’s a better approach: talk to each member of the team privately from time to time.

Make up quick meetings (5-15 minutes) so everybody knows the project status. One person may make a report.

These tips will help you a lot:

  • Make up a plan. All the team members will be prepared and suggest some ideas.
  • Keep to the plan. Cut down unnecessary discussions and small talks.
  • Avoid making collective decisions as they don’t work. A smaller team should suggest a solution.

Other guidelines

It would be productive if you have a common vocabulary at work and private life, i.e. you use the same names for projects, clients, etc. It will help to avoid misunderstanding.

Another useful tip is to manage the knowledge generated in a project (documentation, significant decisions, guidelines).

It’s also helpful to use colorful sticky notes on a whiteboard whilst working on a difficult project. Mark them “waiting”, “in progress”, “done”. Colors should indicate people assigned to tasks.

Introducing the strategies

It’s quite hard to make people working according to the rules you set. Some are lazy to write messages carefully, others don’t see the benefits or can’t put their thoughts clear in writing.

There are 2 ways you can tackle the problem:

  1. Show your team that the amount of work needed for effective communication is less than the time wasted without it.
  2. It may sound harsh but it’s effective. Use validation mechanisms or reject communication that doesn’t conform to the standard you set.

To sum it up:

  • Communication should be clear and precise.
  • Appreciate your teammates’ time. Involve only those you can’t do without.
  • Write everything down and provide easy access to it.
  • Divide big issues into small ones. It would be easier to handle them.
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