Initially I wanted to write a post about working with contractors. I wanted to say how important and difficult it’s for both sides to fully understand requirements and expectations. It still might be a good post idea but there is no need to focus on a particular group. As live shows miscommunication occurs everywhere and on all levels.
I believe there are three main reasons for miscommunication in IT: emotions, complexity and time pressure. Usually all of those factors occurs together.
This is very big subjects and a lot can be said here. In a nutshell there are different kind of emotions depends on where you are.
If you are an employee (perm/contractor/supplier) you might be very keen on getting the job (or project) because of the money or prestige which comes with it. You might want to get the job because it will look good in your portfolio. You might want to get it because there is nothing else at the moment or the commuting is good.
On the other hand if you’re employing you might be very keen to give the job because you are tired of very long and draining recruitment process. You might get very excited because somebody is willing to accept a lower rate or has a very good CV.
Any of the above makes you focus on getting/giving the job more than understanding/explaining what is it all about. It’s extremely difficult but put emotions aside. Cool off before making any decision.
IT projects are usually very difficult (if not impossible) to fully embrace. People around a project have various technical knowledge and experience. All of them use different language and might understand different things under the same phrases.
Don’t assume anything. If there is a hint of uncertainty always ask for clarification. If possible agree on a common language.
3. Time pressure
There is always not enough time and we all know it. Paradoxically for important projects which are short on time one should take even more time to be sure everybody is clear on responsibilities and expectations. After all it’s better to lose few hours instead of a week.
Miscommunication can be embarrassing but also expensive. It’s often an outcome of making assumptions so don’t be afraid to ask “What do you think you have to do? What do you think I will be doing? What do you mean by X?”. It also won’t hurt to write a short bullet points summary and e-mail it to everybody. It might be boring but it’s better to be pro-active than reactive.