Too often, especially with larger and/or virtual teams, all members do not have consistent information and/or they understand the information they have received differently. This is due to a number of factors including:
- Lack of formal communications
- Lack of sharing information whether formally or informally
- Lack of understanding of a variety of cultural backgrounds on the team which may affect how information is received and processed
When members do not have the same information, or process the information differently, it impacts the project in a number of ways, including:
- Inappropriate hand-offs from team member to team member
- Project may go out of scope or require significant change requests
- Delays in meeting milestones
- Unequal balance in workloads
To ensure that all members of the team have the same information, provide information in a variety of ways – via email, via a virtual format, via a teleconference – and ensure that information is provided in bulleted format along with detailed information for those who want/need more explanation. Always provide information prior to a meeting (either virtual or via conference call) with team members so they have time to review the information beforehand. During the meeting, provide a high level overview of the information and ask for team members to provide their perspective. How will they utilize that information? How does it impact them? What other information do they need? Most particularly for culturally diverse teams, keep in mind that people may or may not speak up if they do not understand or want further information. It is your responsibility to reach out to the quieter folks on the team to ensure they have what they need to be successful and understand the information they are provided. Be aware of times when you, as the project lead, may provide information to some members of the team simply because you believe they are the only ones who need that information. We don’t always realize the impact of information on other team members and rely on them to let us know of an impact. If they don’t have information from us, they can’t let us know how it will impact them.
To manage situations where there is significant information flow and many team members, I utilize a portal (shared site) where everyone on the team can access any information on a daily basis. This enables me to provide information only where I believe it may be needed, but to ensure that everyone has access to this information via the portal. In this way I don’t fill up every team members’ email box with information they may not need; but they can review that information to ensure that it will not impact them. I make regular review of the portal an expectation on all projects I lead and include it in communication planning.
For larger teams and/or virtual teams, spend more time than you usually might be in communication and information sharing. You’ll find the benefits and value far outweigh the investment in time on your part!