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?


Tracking employees? Is project management technology crossing the line?

I recently came across an article about Google’s newest product called “Maps Coordinate” which is an enhanced version of its regular Google Maps product; however, it can provide employers with the real-time record of worker locations.  Google presents the product as a tool to make companies more efficient by assigning work more effectively by location.  They will charge $15/month for the use of the map.  There are even features to monitor where employees are within an office setting.  The article shares a reaction from a gaming CEO who was horrified by the application.  He stated that companies should be more concerned about production levels and outcomes, rather than how employees are producing. However, while there are privacy settings that can make a person invisible after hours, it begs the question, would a technology like this really create more efficiency in project or operations management or does this technology cross the lines of privacy and ethical boundaries with employees?

My initial reaction is shock that a company would consider tracking their employees like this. Also, it makes me wonder how much technology is needed to be efficient versus technology becoming a distraction.  Additionally, what are the legal and ethical implications of a program that crosses the lines of privacy between employees’ personal (via mobile phone) and professional lives?  It appears to be a potential human resource concern. 

Technological advances will continue, but do we necessarily need all of them?  I can see a tracking tool like this to be useful for operations like a pizza delivery service or UPS service, where knowing the location of a person or product adds value to the customer and overall operational management; however, I think the issue of privacy and respect brings up ethical concerns as well.   According to a recent case I read regarding social media and human resource recruitment, there is evidence that people need some level of privacy in order to deal with stress and to maintain a level of control in their life, psychologically speaking.  When tracking employees through their phones, regardless of whether the company pays for them or not, I think it’s a violation of privacy and lack of respect.  There is the argument that people can turn their settings to “invisible,” but given how there is an increasing pressure to available at all times in our corporate culture, I can’t imagine that being “unavailable” will be accepted culturally.

Also, when working with people from different generations, it’s important to recognize the differences in how people prefer to work.  While the millennial workforce may not be concerned with their employer using a tracking tool, a baby boomer may be very uncomfortable and even allow it to adversely affect their level of productivity.  The lesson here may be that even though technological advances are available to use, there are times where project managers may need to reconsider if the tool will make them more efficient, or potentially hinder them from achieving their goals.

NY Times, “Google Maps Where Your Workers Are”
Link:  http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/google-maps-the-worker-bees/

Kelley School of Business, Indiana Universary, “You’ve Been Tagged!”, Willaim P. Smith, Deborah Kidder