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Communicating to Get the Job Done Right

Posted June 28, 2012 10:12 AM by yamdankee

What means of communication do you use in your career? Engineering involves applying scientific knowledge to solve problems. One key to doing this successfully is communication. A good engineer makes effective use of as many methods and tools of communication as possible. Over the years there have been many innovations and achievements by engineers that have changed our lives. A great portion of this success can be traced back to good communication among team members.

Good communication is not always easy. Engineers will often find themselves as part of a team, but not always physically with the team. The members could consist of engineers from all over the world. So the question is, how do we effectively communicate and collaborate? What have you found to be helpful to you or your co-workers? Tools, websites, communities and forums, email, Skype, texting, the list goes on. What do you find most effective in getting your ideas across accurately and easily? How do you think communication among engineers could be improved?

(img: managingtheglobalworkplace.com)

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#1

Re: Communicating to Get the Job Done Right

06/28/2012 2:28 PM

Some people are like the old card reading computers.
You have to punch the information into them.
Just kidding of course!
Del

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#2

Re: Communicating to Get the Job Done Right

06/28/2012 3:07 PM
  1. Face to face as much as I can.
  2. phone to ensure contact.
  3. phone/Voice mail for heads up or fyi
  4. Email for follow up or to give a heads up.
  5. txt messaging,when I really don't want a strung out conversation with someone who just loves listening to the sound of their own voice. and don't really say anything
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#4
In reply to #2

Re: Communicating to Get the Job Done Right

06/28/2012 4:30 PM

the above list was in order of importance, I did leave out

  • written hard copy communique, such as letters, prints, graphs or illustrations.
  • And Video or animation,

these two additions would be inserted between 1 and 2 respectively.

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#3

Re: Communicating to Get the Job Done Right

06/28/2012 3:37 PM

Comprehensive, peer reviewed requirements.

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#5

Re: Communicating to Get the Job Done Right

06/29/2012 8:44 AM

All of the above and ALWAYS draw a picture - even if it's just an analogy. That can really help people understand what your goal is especially when dealing with people in different countries.

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#6

Re: Communicating to Get the Job Done Right

07/01/2012 8:11 AM

The problem with most attempts to communicate is that most people use an outmoded way of getting the point across. They spend too much time with details (which can be confusing), before explaining what the problem is, and they usually wait until the end to provide, or request, a solution.

In engineering the ideal way to communicate is to briefly explain the problem, then follow that immediately with a conclusion that provides, or requests, the solution. Only after these brief statements should the background information be provided.

This way, the person you are trying to communicate with gets a quick grasp of why you are communicating with them, and is then in the proper frame of mind to understand the background info.

When I was still pretty young and had been an optics engineer for just a few years, I had a supervisor who often needed me to write up reports of tests I'd done or occasionally to write white papers on new ideas. These reports were to be read by the head of engineering, the heads of various other departments, sometimes the local division president, sometimes even by the chief technical officer at corporate headquarters or by customers. My supervisor was a stickler for spelling, grammar, action sentences (avoiding the subjunctive case) and for the proper formatting of an engineering report in the world of business, which was not how report writing was taught in college.

He explained that upper level management wanted to be able to pick up the report and understand immediately what the problem was, and what the solution was. The format he taught me made sense, and I've used it ever since - and I've often been commended on the clarity of my reports. So the proper way to format a report is:

Introduction. A brief introduction stating the purpose of the report including a description of the problem, if there is one.

Conclusion. A quick summary of the findings of the study, or what the solution to the problem is, or what the solution needs to be, or what the possible benefits would be.

Background Info. This would include whatever information is pertinent to explaining what was stated in the introduction and the conclusion. This section does not have to be brief, but it needs to be succinct. Include everything that is pertinent, and nothing that is superfluous.

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#7
In reply to #6

Re: Communicating to Get the Job Done Right

07/01/2012 8:13 AM

Oh, presentation. (in fewer words)

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#8
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Re: Communicating to Get the Job Done Right

07/01/2012 9:06 AM

I would not say it is outmoded, just lacks structure.

Good communication is a skill. If you fail to learn and practice it you will fail to effectively get your point across.

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#9
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Re: Communicating to Get the Job Done Right

07/01/2012 12:36 PM

I meant outmoded in the sense that the usual process taught for writing reports, where the 'Conclusions' or 'Summary' is placed at the end, perhaps after dozens of pages of 'Discussion' - a format that has been around for years - is actually not the best format for engineers in a business environment. The old format has structure. It's the format used in liberal arts classes and is used within science and engineering fields, too; it's the standard format for journals. But when communicating engineering information to business people, I've found that the format I described works better in the faster-paced 'real' business world. The modern flood of information we swim in requires a format that gets the essential information across quicker.

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#11
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Re: Communicating to Get the Job Done Right

07/01/2012 8:23 PM

I see what you are saying and that is something I agree with.

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#14
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Re: Communicating to Get the Job Done Right

07/02/2012 8:03 AM

where the 'Conclusions' or 'Summary' is placed at the end,

Its a mistake that is repeated, almost like a grand finale, or a murder mystery novel.

Get people involve in the topic early.

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#16
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Re: Communicating to Get the Job Done Right

07/02/2012 8:22 AM

I like to add the a few reasons this would happen:

  • poor project managers wants to keep control, for what ever reason, and the only way to accomplish that, is to keep the team off balanced.
  • A project manager in a position they have no business being in....i.e., they don't know what they are doing.
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#13
In reply to #8

Re: Communicating to Get the Job Done Right

07/02/2012 8:01 AM

In project management, communication is the foundation. period.

A good project manager screens the total informations and conveys the needed communications and data. Instead of burying the people doing the project with information that carries no relevancy

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#10

Re: Communicating to Get the Job Done Right

07/01/2012 3:37 PM

I had a VP that would always ask presenters to show him their LAST slide first. It almost always had all the information he wanted to see!

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#18
In reply to #10

Re: Communicating to Get the Job Done Right

07/02/2012 9:27 PM

Yep. Exactly.

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#12

Re: Communicating to Get the Job Done Right

07/01/2012 10:32 PM

When talking to fellow engineers I use logic and reason.

When talking to managers I use flattery, politics and blackmail.

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#15
In reply to #12

Re: Communicating to Get the Job Done Right

07/02/2012 8:05 AM

That is not a bad answer at all, a bit direct, but not to far off of:

Know your audience.

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#19
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Re: Communicating to Get the Job Done Right

07/02/2012 9:30 PM

Logic and reason, even with the female engineers?

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#20
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Re: Communicating to Get the Job Done Right

07/03/2012 7:56 AM

In my salad days there were no female engineers. But I did have a few female managers, who were a refreshing change. With the male managers it always seemed to be "my d*ck is bigger than yours." The ladies had a team spirit approach and respected your feelings.

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#21
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Re: Communicating to Get the Job Done Right

07/03/2012 8:42 AM

I have to agree whole heartedly, some of me better managers were females.

But there were attitude inconsistencies that periodically happens that I will not go into with female managers.

But knowing them and keeping a discreet schedule and accommodating and coordinating the attitude with your schedule helps.

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#22
In reply to #21

Re: Communicating to Get the Job Done Right

07/03/2012 10:23 AM

Ah, yes...the phase of the moon. I've had the same problem with werewolves, but that's another story.

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#23
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Re: Communicating to Get the Job Done Right

07/03/2012 10:46 AM

Oh, thats (2) threads coming out of this.........we weren't expecting twins.

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#17

Re: Communicating to Get the Job Done Right

07/02/2012 1:12 PM
  1. Periodic/facilitated team meetings with agendas (weekly); follow up with minutes/actions
  2. Have respect for one another
  3. Smart boards (archive images)
  4. Show respect for one another
  5. Breaks/Team building exercises
  6. Be respectful to one another
  7. Declare Pens down (engineering schedule milestones)
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