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Finally, a new project is coming! Excitement and expectations on both sides have skyrocketed to the moon, and waiting for the launch is practically unbearable. Yeah, you almost forgot about recent disappointments caused by the lack of understanding between you and one of the software engineers. Or maybe even with all of them. Remember that? What would you do to avoid that this time? Luckily for you, we prepared a guide for maintaining healthy and professional communication and cooperation with the team while developing a new product or maintaining an existing one.

Why is it so important?

Talking to someone from a different industry without understanding the other side may be challenging, confusing and frustrating. And I guess that you can recall at least one such situation. What can come of it? Apart from various unpleasant feelings like annoyance, frustration or confusion, it may lead to money loss, time delay or even team breakups.

Of course, that’s the worst-case scenario, but besides helping you to prevent it, we also want to help you other negative consequences of misunderstanding between you and your team members.

Negative consequences

The three most important among them were mentioned above, but let’s talk about them and other implications more widely and clearly.

Let’s say that you want to develop some new features for your application. Talking to developers is crucial in work estimation, which is critical in planning a budget. If you do it poorly, don’t be surprised if it will turn out – during the ongoing project – that the budget was exceeded and you have to face the consequences.

It can lead to money loss, time delay or even laying somebody off.

Money loss

If the costs are higher than the assumed budget, it will lead to money loss. For example, this happens when developed features aren’t what the client wanted to get. And it doesn’t matter whose fault it is. In both cases, the facts won’t change – due to misunderstanding, you need to start over. This also impacts the expected task’s or project’s delivery time.

Time delay

If the available budget is lower than originally planned, it could (and probably will) cause a time delay. “Suddenly” you notice that the dev team will need more time (and of course money) to finish the project. And now all you can do is estimate losses and launch a recovery plan. Nobody likes it, and everybody tries to avoid this situation.

Laying somebody off

Do not kid yourself – it’s not so common to fire people because of bad decisions, poor management or weak development skills. But depending on the caliber of the case, sometimes you have to take into consideration that cutting off a team’s weak link could improve further or future work.

Remember not to be a weak link- you need to work hard on yourself but also with your team (“no pain no gain” sometimes fits perfectly). Letting anybody go should be a last resort.

How to avoid the negatives?

Be aware that you and engineers (may) speak different languages

No, I am not talking about you speaking American English and them Java, C# or Python. I mean that you see things from a business point of view, and your team members confront that with their technical understanding of the matter.

The solution? I see at least two. Firstly, constantly check if you understand each other. For example, you can do so using comparisons, drawings, charts, and mockups. Secondly, you may look for assistance from someone with greater experience or who has managed to solve similar difficulties (e.g. another manager, CTO).

Be honest yet respectful

Don’t beat about the bush – an ugly truth is always better than a beautiful lie. Your team members deserve your honesty. If there is something you don’t like, don’t be afraid to say it. Remember to treat the other side as a partner with whom you want to and can accomplish great things.

Specify your requirements

If you expect your team to work as you have planned, don’t forget to let them know it. Define requirements, tasks, and jobs precisely. Do not leave any room for guesses or ambiguity. If you’re not completely sure how to deliver it – consult with your team members. Talk about this together, exchange thoughts, compare different points of view and develop a solution grounded on a common plane of understanding.

Use simple words to explain complex issues

It sounds… simple but – contrary to appearances – it’s not an easy task. Both business and technical sides have their specificities but should have a common objective.

Have you ever heard “you don’t understand it if you can’t explain it in simple words” or similar aphorisms? Using basic terms and common expressions simplifies the process of transferring knowledge/requirements. The more straightforwardly it will be done,  the more confident you can be about further realization.

Another great principle is KISS- “Keep It Simple, Stupid”- it says that simplicity should be a key goal, and unnecessary complexity should be avoided.

Bonus tip: read “How to win Friends and influence people”

You have most likely already noticed that once in a while, we try to recommend books to read. And these are usually non-fiction books that may improve the way you work, live or cooperate with the others. This time, we encourage you to read “How to win friends and influence people” by Dale Carnegie. Its first edition came out in 1936, but it’s still current and helpful and will continue to be so in the future.

In short, it’s about relationships with people, and it doesn’t matter whether they are strangers or if it’s a close family member or a bunch of co-workers. Try to utilize one or more of the hints contained in the book, and you’ll surely notice significant progress in your social skills.

Conclusion

Communication with other people is one of the most difficult skills you have to learn in your professional career. Because we are all different, we all use various techniques and we all try to exchange information, we need to work on our communication skills. Sometimes it is a never-ending process, but luckily, there is always progress.Don’t stop your efforts to improve your social skills. These are as important as your business or technical skills. Or maybe even more.

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karol_parafianowicz

Senior Project Manager

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