Perception Is Not Always Equal

Communications Management | By Brad Egeland | minute read

Baby standing in a cardboard box

We have a large family. A very large family. Over the past 7 years, we have adopted multiple babies, thus the large family. We also get lots of items every month from Amazon.

Diapers, laundry detergent, apple sauce-you name it. If it can come cheaper and faster with free delivery through Amazon, then my wife has it set up as a rotating standing order. We often get 1-2 packages per day. It also means we don't have to drive out in the hot 110° Las Vegas weather to buy it. Win-win.

One day we found our oldest two of the little ones (who are now 7 years old) playing with two of the younger ones, putting them in yesterday's empty Amazon box and then opening the box up and saying, Oh, look…a new baby!

Then we realised that since, at the time, we had just adopted two newborns recently, that this is how they thought babies came to us. They woke up, and BAM, there was a new baby! They thought it was great. They thought the babies were just delivered to our door. It was hilarious! That was their perception of the situation.

Without the right perception, as project managers, we too might have a false sense of reality. When we have the wrong perception, we make assumptions-often ones that are false.

As project managers, then, we need to be aware that our perception of an issue or a risk or a goal or a milestone or a requirement may differ somewhat from others on the project.

Just when we think everyone is on the same page, they may not be. But how do we combat these things? How do we ensure that this doesn't cause our project to go off the rails at some critical point in the engagement?

Communication Is Key

Basically, it all comes down to communication.

First, we need to-as project managers-communicate clearly, efficiently and effectively. That's not just verbal communication, either. We must also be good listeners. If we never listen, then we never understand how others have perceived the same information we just processed.

We Must Follow-up to Ensure Understanding

It's not enough, however, to communicate and to listen. We also must follow-up. If we're having an important meeting where key decisions are being made and/or key information is being transferred, then we need to close the meeting by discussing what just happened. Discussing what information or decisions were concluded.

But that's not enough, either. The project manager should be taking notes during any important project meetings-including weekly project meetings.

Post-meeting, follow-up with all participants by sending those notes documenting meeting results out to all attendees. Give them a period of time-possibly 24 hours or till the end of the work day-to respond with any changes. Then resend once all changes have been incorporated.

Summary

It isn't about the project manager always being right-we can miscommunicate, too. But it is about having everyone on the same page with the same understanding.

You do that by following up and ensuring that everyone has the same perception of what just happened. If they don't, then you fix it as quickly as possible. That's good communication and good project management.

How about our readers? When have you had an incident where a miscommunication threatened one of your projects? What actions did you take to fix it? What behaviours have you changed to help ensure it doesn't happen again?

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