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December 6, 2010

Failure to communicate: fatal to projects (and political parties)

Over the weekend, I was catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen since the mid-term elections here in the US. While hashing out what the election results meant, my friend said that he felt that history would be kinder to the accomplishments of Congress than the electorate was.

I asked my friend to consider the relationship of Congress to its constituents as a business relationship. Congress is a business with a very large set of clients. When a company does work for a client, the business must clearly and continuously communicate with the client about the work the company is doing and how that work benefits the client. That communication is particularly crucial when you’re making major changes to an existing workflow (in the case of Congress, healthcare reform comes to mind). Otherwise, the outcome is likely to be negative, and the company (or the majority political party) will find itself falling head first into a ditch:

Regardless of how you feel about what the current Congress accomplished, I think we can all agree that clear communication is rarely a strength of any government.

Have I oversimplified things here? Perhaps. But an inability to boil down your efforts and accomplishments on a project and clearly explain them to a client creates a dangerous disconnect. Can you, for example, summarize what you plan to do, what you have completed, and the benefits of those tasks on an index card (or the digital equivalent)? If you can’t, you likely have a failure in communication that endangers the project—and your relationship with your client.