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Monthly Archives: May 2013

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Communication: Can you hear me now?

When you take the time to try and communicate, miracles can happen:  http://www.wimp.com/helenkeller/

In a recent activity, this blogger was asked to review the same statement presented in three different modalities:  a text/e-mail, a phone message, and a video clip.  Of course, how each one was interpreted was slightly different.  The email/text message could easily be interpreted as kind, pleading, and polite but rambling.  The Phone message came across to this listener as being much more firm and direct, with an emphasis on time and deadlines, all based on the timing and tone of the voice (Laureate, 2010).  The video clip shared the same exact statement, but came across as friendly, understanding and patient, based on the speaker’s body language, even if her smile might have been a mixed signal which downplayed the importance of her statement.  As the Project Management mentor, Dr. Stolovitch, points out in his training video; everybody knows that 93% of communication is not what you say, but how you say it (Laureate, 2010).

Each Team Member’s, Stakeholder’s,  and Project Manager’s INTERPRETATION  of what is said is quite another matter, and can often be a reflection of their own situation, cultural training, agenda, outside interference, or emotional state.  Even the best and most well-practiced diplomat can be challenged with getting a message clearly across to a listener, from time to time (Laureate, 2010).  The value of communicating over the phone in our example exercise may have been the most effective way for the speaker to stress the importance of their message, without rambling or sending mixed diplomatic signals to a visual learner, but inevitably, it is best for a manager who is intending to communicate clearly, to understand the preferred and effective communication styles of their audience, if not each audience member uniquely (Laureate, 2010).

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Knowing each stakeholder’s best communication modality is a bit like knowing each student’s learning style and preference.  The most effective diplomats are able not only to communicate clearly and effectively, but are also able to treat each stakeholder as if they were a dignitary from a unique culture, and communicate with them by “mirroring” their unique vernacular and body-language cues (The Communication Help Center, 2013).  Depending on a project’s time-table, the luxury of “figuring out what makes each stakeholder tick,” can be a both a challenge and highly rewarding.   As the Golden Rule teaches; treat others how you would want to be treated… however, the “Platinum Rule” raises the game with; “Treat others how THEY would expect to be treated.”  While this may be equally difficult for kind-hearted as well as ultra-demanding Project Managers, it may actually be essential for Project Management Success.  “Know Thy Stakeholders,” is the First Commandment when using this technique, while at minimum, a leader should know how to communicate effectively to their intended audience as a cultural group. (Portney, et al, 2008 & Laureate, 2010).

References:

Cartoon (2013). Facebook: Timeline Photos: The Secret to Humor is Surprise Fan Page. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=501013959972651&set=a.126895770717807.28294.126894987384552&type=1&relevant_count=1&ref=nf

Laureate, Inc. (Producer).  The art of effective communication, (2010).  [Interactive multimedia exercise].  Retrieved from http://mym.cdn.laureate-media.com/2dett4d/Walden/EDUC/6145/03/mm/aoc/index.html

Laureate, Inc. (Producer).  Communicating with stakeholders:  Dr. Stolovitch discusses communication strategies and managing client expectations.  (2010).  [Video Podcast].  Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_2823017_1%26url%3D

Laureate, Inc. (Producer).  Project Management Concerns: Communication Strategies and Organizational Culture: Dr. Stolovitch gives Carole Kramer advice on adjusting her communication style to fit her client’s culture. (2010).  [Video Podcast].  Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_2823017_1%26url%3D

The Communication Help Center (2013).  Mirroring:  A communication tool for generating rapport.  Retrieved from http://work911.com/communication/skillsmirroring.htm

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

A Community Awareness & Fundraiser Project: A Post-Mortem Review

Helpertunity is a 501c3 Public Charity that supports recreation, education, and volunteer activities for elderly disabled and homeless persons.  The charity relies on two small fundraisers done in collaboration with the founder’s church, in which small crafts and gifts are sold at low prices to the private-school children, during lunch, on the Tuesdays before Mother’s Day and Christmas.

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The event has served to educate the church and community about the public charity, as it attempts to grow and become sustainable in its efforts.  The recent Spring Sale was the third time Helpertunity had hosted the event, which had been adapted from an earlier version of a sale which was an “after-thought” to get rid of left-over items donated to the church’s regular Craft Sale Fundraiser for their Adopted Sister-Church in Haiti.

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Project Successes: 

Certain processes, artifacts, and activities that Helpertunity instituted when first creating the Spring Sale for the children had led to a pattern of success, including:

  • Scheduling the event with the Social Justice Liaison and School Principal in person / via e-mail.
  • Providing fabric table covering in seasonal colors, and “suggested donation” price signs.
  • Sectioning off the table by price points, and setting items of that price in the marked section.
  • Allowing crafters to set the price of their own donations and display their items accordingly.
  • Photographing each section of the sale table at the beginning and at the end of the sale event.
  • Providing seating and money pouches for all volunteers, making it easier for disabled helpers.
  • Assigning volunteers to oversee one or more price sections on the day of the sale.
  • Pre-packing of each volunteer’s money bag with $22 = 2 $5s, 10 $1s, and $2 in Quarters.
  • Providing volunteer button badges containing the charity’s logo.
  • Accepting donations of hand-crafted items from nursing home patients for sale to the kids.
  • Displaying the Charity’s Logo on a sign and on each price sign (plastic-standee) on the table.
  • Creating color book-markers for each student advertising the Charity and the upcoming sale.
  • Creating color signs to be displayed around the school 1 to 2 weeks before the sale day.
  • Creating a “Credit Pay” system where students are permitted to bring their payment later.’
  • Making a Credit Record Book, and Credit Slips; with student’s name, room, and pledge amount.
  • Including information about the charity and fundraiser’s purpose on the credit slip.
  • Providing extra “Thank-You” gifts for the School’s Teachers & Staff for their support.
  • Including tags with the Charity Name & Logo with each “Thank You” gift to increase awareness.
  • Keeping marked bins of all the essential tools packed and ready for the next sale.
  • Having at least 5 volunteers behind the sale table and 2 volunteers in front; helping children.

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Having repeated the event for the third time, some unexpected frustrations evolved which blind-sided the organization.   Discontent aired by one teacher, to her colleagues and a key volunteer and prior project Champion, created an un-expected, and possibly unintentional, passive-aggressive “boycott “ from some teachers, leaving their students un-prepared with monies for the sale.   This action created a back-log of the previously functional “Credit Pay” system.

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The anomaly simultaneously highlighted other segments of the project that had improved, including other teachers that had taken on the opportunity to make the event a teachable moment about local/domestic charity efforts and students role in social justice/philanthropy.   The anomaly also highlighted the oversight of one preparation step that had been forgotten in the third repetition of the event:  The reminder e-mail that had always been sent to the Principal, (which had generated her reminder to include a note about the sale in her weekly parent email) had been omitted.

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Project Frustrations:

That one slight omission of a “reminder e-mail” from the process, product, and artifact which was not included during the third hosting of the sale, had created a gap in student and teacher preparedness, and may have compounded teacher and volunteer frustrations.   The anomaly was only seen among the younger children, since the 4-6 graders had become capable of reminding themselves via sign postings.  Previously, the 4-6 graders had reported themselves as not being well informed, via the use of only the ignored e-mails sent to parents and the forgotten book-marker ads distributed two weeks prior to the event.  In reflection, the use of the e-mails, book-markers, and reminder signs, used in a triple combination, should generate better education/communication coverage of the event.

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In post-mortem reflection; the process, products, and artifacts that should help to further improve the preparation, hosting, and instructional value of the next upcoming sale will include:

  • Repetition of all processes above which have provided success.
  • Creation of a “Preparation & Packing Check-off List” which included ALL tools and steps.
  • Inclusion of a QR code on the bookmarker that leads directly to the charity’s new web site.
  • Creation of a more detailed brochure about the charity’s efforts for teachers on the day of sale.
  • Creation of a more detailed postcard about the charity’s efforts for students on the day of sale.
  • Creation of a simple lesson-plan / activity about the organization, social justice, philanthropy.
  • Provision of the lesson plan / activity to teachers at the time of bookmark-brochure distribution.
  • Recording the Charity’s Website / Photo Montage for Display on a Digital Frame at the next sale.
  • Promotion of the organization to more Elder Facilities and collection of more Patient’s Crafts.
  • Creating matching volunteer work-aprons and new button-badges for wearing at the sale event.

 

Project Management Process Analysis:

Clearly, the part of the full Project Management Process which has helped the project to become more and more valuable at attaining it’s multi-purpose goals, has been:  a strong emphasis on the determination of project need and feasibility; an ongoing reliance on the ever-changing test and implementation of both educational/marketing and product deliverables; and a very strong post-project analysis and evolution of applied improvements.  Further improvements will be tied to the new focus on a written planning-documentation phase, and the designing of specification for future deliverables, which can include printed project instructions for facilities and disabled crafting volunteers, or an online hub of links to project ideas and patterns, as well as printed and online supplemental education and activity resources designed specifically for teachers who chose to use the sale/project opportunity as a social justice and philanthropy character-education topic.

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References:

Greer, M. (2010).  The Project Management Minimalist:  Just enough PM to rock your projects!.  Edition specially created for Laureate Education.  Minneapolis Minnesota:  Laureate Publishing.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on May 16, 2013 in Uncategorized