August 3, 2017

Communication Guru: The art of communicating like crazy

Product Managers are serial communicators. They are like the human communication hub of the product team. They take in all the conversations, CTAs, and instructions from everyone, and transmit them all to everyone else. The right people, of course. I know this sounds like a crazy task. Believe me, it really is.

The crazy communication steps:

Step 1: Hoarding

Just the act of collecting bits of information from all the channels (Slack, GitHub, Jira, emails, meetings, and everything in between), is already a challenge. But communication doesn’t stop at the mining level. It needs to be understood, rated based on its level of urgency and implications, AND plugged where it belongs. In most cases, this means communicated back to its original receivers, except in the form of direct clear CTAs.

Step 2: Nagging

Of course, the cycle is far from done at this point. Humans as we are, we tend to… forget. Unless reminded and followed up with, CTAs can get lost quite easily. Communication is hard when it becomes a noise of all the other CTAs, urgencies, and current ongoing tasks. That’s why it’s the PM’s job to make sure nothing falls through the cracks and everything is dealt with. Sometimes it takes a simple message to get the job done and sometimes, well, it’s complicated. A couple of messages, remind-me laters, snoozes, and stand up meetings later, the blocker is gone.

Step 3: Snooping

“And then suddenly, trouble appeared!”

At least that’s the trouble-is-in-the-horizon cue we’re all so used to. Because, like it or not, every happy event is bound to be disturbed at some point. I’m not trying to sound too cynical but that is at least the way product creation works. After all, the reason why the product is being created is to solve a problem. In order to solve a problem, you need to figure out where it’s coming from. And that’s the PM’s task usually.

Most of the time, it’s all caused by an overlooked CTA or an unintentional blocker.

Step 4: Saving the day and enjoying good old victory! (Almost)

Once the problem’s cause is spotted, it’s time to take action. Meaning that the PM has to figure out the best way to solve the issue. Most of the time, such problems end up being caused by a communication issue. Either someone forgot to get back to someone or a simple error that was not properly communicated. Assumptions can also be the cause of this. At this point, the everything can get back on track easily.

They say “After each storm, the sun goes back up and life basically gets all happy.

The end.”

As if.

Because of bad communication, so many things get off track. Things like strict timelines! But missed deadlines are a whole other dilemma.