Aristotle stated that nature abhors a vacuum. His argument was that nature hates the idea of empty space and will fill it with whatever is available. While this theory was later contested, there is a valuable lesson for Project Managers today when it comes to providing information about a project.
What’s that? Be sure to manage the “communication space” that envelops your project. It’s your job to keep that space filled with facts and as many positive points of reference as possible.
Negative Forces that Will Fill the Vacuum
Everyone is excited when a new project begins. Optimism and hope abound. The lessons learned from past projects will be applied to this one and this project is guaranteed to be a success! But, as the weeks and months pass, things may not be going exactly as planned and negativity can start creeping into that “communication space.”
What are some of these sources?
- Unhappy Customers: You may or may not directly hear about a customer’s dissatisfaction with how things are going with a project. Even though you should be the first one to hear, they sometimes go above you and escalate to management. Negative e-mails and conversations can start filling up the communication space.
- Disgruntled Co-Workers: Your project may have bumped another project or is pulling resources from another team. Unfortunately, this many times creates the same negative noise that occurs with unhappy customers.
By the way…there is such a thing as a "gruntled" co-worker. Managing the communication space around your project will certainly help to achieve a state of, uh, gruntled-ness.
- Human Nature: Unfortunately, it’s easier to find bad or negative things to say about someone or something than to give credit where credit is due. This type of negative talk is just a conversation or two away and will quickly be pulled into the vortex.
How to Clean Out The Vacuum
It's a two-step process to empty the communication space that surrounds your project and then fill it back up again. First, you have to eliminate the negativity and spin that may currently be filling the space. This is done by:
- Identifying the source(s)
- Resolving legitimate issues
- Removing subjectivity and emotion from the equation, and
- Dealing only with the facts
A vacuum will now exist. It’s time to fill that empty space with objective and positive points of reference. This is done by:
- Establishing and publishing an agreed upon fact base
- Making sure both the naysayers and advocates are hearing the same message
- Consistently communicating changes in the fact base as they occur via meetings, conversations, e-mail and other communication vehicles that are available, and
- Providing easily repeatable sound bites that capture the current state of the project that stakeholders can use to counteract less than factual information.
Managing the communication space that surrounds any project will keep the distractions down and allow the team to focus on the task at hand.
Always be mindful of the "communication space” that surrounds your project. Keeping that space filled with facts and positive points of reference will keep the vacuum at bay and your project intact.