In office, we work on new and innovative stuff daily. This involves frequent thinking, communicating and responding. All of these are iterative in nature and must go on until the desired result is achieved. Iteration is good as it is expected to add value, brings in variation in thoughts and invites constructive critique. Agile methodology that we follow also encourages iteration rather than doing everything perfectly in the first go. However, more often than not the iterations can become redundant and do not add value – reasons are aplenty – not noting down what was already thought, incorrect explanation, wrong assumptions etc. Looking outside – peers in other organizations, blog articles on the web, trainings etc, it felt like that it was an interesting problem to solve. Sometime ago, I had written on how properly naming everything helped our team avoid some of these challenges. Besides naming, we also started working on enhancing a few more aspects to make ourselves more effective with our efforts.
This article revolves around the few things that you would be doing every other day – thinking, communicating and responding. These are simple steps and can be immediately experimented with. If you do try then you are likely to see invigorating effect in the first 2-3 attempts itself.
Thinking is necessary at many roles that we take everyday – devising algorithms, creating user interfaces, writing content, managing difficult situations. Thinking is a creative activity ! So, start thinking in a manner that is natural to you. Do not restrain or attempt structuring yourself at the onset itself. It would be great to write the thoughts. Again, be less restrictive – write as it comes – don’t worry about the order, sense, conflict or ambiguity. Prefer to a traditional pen-paper / whiteboard-marker approach over typing.
Keep contemplating and writing thoughts till the point where you feel that you now need to give it a shape. By this time, you’ll have enough inputs for the actual stuff that you had set out to create.
Eg: While thinking about writing a blog entry, I started with these notes that I wrote in about 15 minutes
Read an article long time ago about power of naming things… Tried adapting it in practice.. Was helpful… Has eased discussions with team… Helping team mates also to practice the same. Now they are able to express their thoughts better, and reach decisions, goals faster….. Other departments and teams benefit too – support, marketing, pre-sales.
People find it easier to adapt it in raw thinking, every day communication. Need a regular reinforcement till becomes a habit. For not-so-obvious things, examples required to convince and help understand the advantage…
Verbal, email, chat etc – communication takes a significant chunk of our day. Before initiating a communication, spend atleast a few moments to formulate what and how you want to communicate. This is independent of the communication being formal or informal.
- Make a quick recall so that your assumptions about other’s knowledge are as accurate as possible
- What all do I need to explain before getting to the point? Is he an expert in the domain?
- How was my last discussion on a similar topic with the same person
- In what order should the information be shared so that it sort of builds up what you are trying to say. The other person should not be required to go back-and-forth to make sense out of it
- While communicating, especially verbally, try and understand the clues
- is the listener is understanding
- did the listener miss a point
- the listener isn’t paying attention
- the listener is interested because the information is concise
Responding is an important part of any discussion. One may help fruitfully culminate the discussion by being a good responder. Or may make the discussion go haywire if even the responses are unstructured.
- Wait till the speaker has finished his point
- Make sure you did listen attentively
- Make a mental or written note of what you want to say and then start responding
- When raising a doubt or objection, make sure that it is relevant. If you are not sure, then it would be good to ask if its in the scope of discussion or not
Eg: Observe this discussion
Swati: Team has asked if web-service integration is possible…. (interrupted by Thomas)
Thomas: … Yes, that is possible. We did it for many other deployments as well
Swati: That I already know. This wasn’t my question. I was asking if the web-service integration is possible with external application without changing firewall configuration
Thomas: (answers offhand) Yes that can be done with external application. Its so obvious
Swati: You sure that it doesn’t require changing firewall configuration?
Thomas: Oh withouuut changing firewall configuration. No, the web-service access is blocked and would definitely need changes to the firewall configuration
In this discussion, initially if Thomas had allowed Swati to complete the question, then the response could have been correct in the first attempt itself. Then again, Thomas missed an important part of the question (about firewall) and ended up answering incorrectly yet again. The discussion could have well been like this
Swati: Team has asked if the web-service integration is possible with external application without changing firewall configuration
Thomas: No, the web-service access is blocked and would definitely need changes to the firewall configuration
This will have an even greater impact if the discussion was about a more complex topic than this.
There are infinite ways possible to improve. We are finding these effective and simple to retain. Thoughts?