A Simple Communication Fail

I have always been curious about how ideas become reality.  Perhaps that is how I ended up working in marketing and advertising, but I am always intriqued by the process in which ideas are executed.  For example, as a child, I would watch television commercials and wonder how they were created, how the idea was pitched and how it was ultimately executed.  Did a group of people sit around a room and just toss out ideas?  Did some top executive come up with the idea and required the execution and development of that idea?  How did it all happen logistically?

As my career progressed in the field of property management, I quickly realized that not all projects have a defined beginning and end.  Sometimes a project is on-going and the “execution” takes consistent communication with key stakeholders. In my current role, as the marketing director for a residential property mangement company, I oversee the marketing of 43 properties in my region, it is very easy to consider each property as a separate, ongoing project.  We manage for institutional investors and report back regularly on our operation of the property. 

Recently, it became very clear to me that our team had failed in the eyes of one of our institutional investors because of a lack of communication.  Typically, we send monthly reports to our investors and provide financial and operational information.  If they specify the need for additional information, we can provide it, but we typically have a standard format that we send.  It became very clear that this particular investor was most interested in maintaining the “high-end” brand of the property more than anything else, but he was not happy with our level of communication regarding the brand.  Unbeknownst to my team, he wanted daily and weekly updates regarding this topic. 

We recently discussed in class that some people prefer email over phone communication, others prefer phone over email.  Some want to be informed of all details, while others prefer only high-level information.  While sitting in class, I had a realization that it’s OK for people to have different communication preferences, but it just needs to be defined. 

So, where did my team fail?   We failed to ask our investor what he preferred.  It is as simple as that.   Had we prepared a communication plan from the beginning, we would have defined this relationship better and set the proper expectations for our success to deliver.  I had this realization two class sessions ago and have since implemented a proper communication plan.   This plan now clearly defines a few key factors and our invester couldn’t be happier:

  • who will receive the information
  • when we will provide information
  • what format the information will be delivered
  • how frequent the information will be delivered

Does your company define this for internal or external projects, even  if they are on-going?  If not, why do you think this simple step is often overlooked?


3 thoughts on “A Simple Communication Fail

  1. It is interesting how a lack of communication can cause so much chaos regardless of the industry. I enjoyed reading your post and think your four bullet points are a great template for constructing a communication plan.

    We had a similar experience on a project with a customer that wanted to be called back the same day he left a message. It was never explicitly stated, but I normally try to return calls the same day, so it was never a issue. The problem began when I went on vacation for two weeks and another project manager took over the project while I was gone. His communication preferences didn’t coincide with the customers, so when I returned, the customer was furious for not having his calls returned quickly and the project manager who took over for me was fed up with all the phone calls from the customer. If I had put a communication plan together ahead of time, the entire problem could have been avoided.

    At my current place of employment, our communication plan consists of specifying how often a project meeting will be held and who will attend. Fortunately, it hasn’t been a problem because our teams are mostly internal and small, but we will need to establish a more encompassing plan that addresses all forms of communication on future projects.

  2. I agree with you saying that it is okay to have different preferences in communication. And it definitely is necessary that the kind of communication preferred is defined from the beginning, or else things will not go as planned, and a project may fail. While reading your post, I found myself wondering what the positive and negatives are from communicating by phone and by communication by email. I would say that communicating by phone is much faster, and since the tone of voice can be heard, there may be no mis understandings of what each person is trying to get across. By communicating by email though, each conversation is logged, therefore you can go back to what was said if you need to remind yourself of it, or if someone wanted proof of what they said, it is logged in the email.

  3. I like the way you explain the concept by relating it to a real life experience. It allows me to better understand how the concept actually works in the work place. Your post is relevant because you emphasize the importance of good communication. You also bring up a good point that good communication involves a proper communication plan, and each plan will be different depending on a preference of individual. By being able to understand needs of others and able to deliver what they want effectively, organizations can create a good relationship with customers. Effective communication also helps organizations increase their productivity if they are able to use it effectively when exchanging information within organizations. Good communication is a key to success.

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