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  • How To Fix Miscommunication Issues Within Your Team

    [01.07.21]
    - Ryan Sumo

  • Zero Information Questions

    The flipside of of Zero Info Answers is Zero Info Questions.  This is when a colleague asks you a question but does not accurately provide context as to what the question is about. Here's an example:

    Zero Information : Can you review the sizes for the exam results panel? It seems like the numbers are wrong. Some of them don't add up. Like, the sum of the heights of the student exam header (right side) is not the same as the height of the students grid.

    While this question may be accurate, there are no context clues about what the actual problem is and forces the recipient to investigate further.  Instead of saying something is different, say why you think that difference is wrong, and what you assume is the correct solution.

    Some Information : Can you review the sizes for the exam results panel? The numbers on the student grid are shorter than the sum of the student exam results panel.

    This is more useful because it immediately tells the recipient what the problem is, and they can investigate it.

    Most Useful Information : Can you review the sizes for the exam results panel? The numbers on the student grid are shorter than the sum of the student exam results panel. I think they should be the same height.

    This is more useful because it immediately tells the recipient what the problem is, and what the expectations are.

    Always remember, instead of just saying something is different, provide context as to why it is different (ie one is shorter/cheaper/faster than the other).

    Pwede Naman (It can be/can be done)

    My last example is a little language specific, Filipino to be exact, but I'm sure there must be similar language cases in other countries. Locally, "Pwede Naman" is a non committal catch all term that can provide different meanings based on context or the person using it. One person's "pwede naman" might be a yes, but I'd only ever use it to convey a very ambivalent feeling, something like saying "I guess that's ok..." in English.

    This is fine when used in casual conversation, but I absolutely hate it when used in a decision making context. Here's an example for when someone is asked "what do you think about adding this mechanic to the game?".

    Zero Information : I guess that's ok.

    This gives no context or value judgement whatsoever. It conveys no opinion. If you are not sure about the impact of a mechanic, it's better to very clearly say something like "I really don't have strong feelings about this" or "I need more time to think about this and then I'll get back to you."

    Some Information : I like it, but I have some concerns OR I think that's a bad idea because (concerns).

    This clearly conveys how you feel (either positive or negative) about the mechanic and that you have concerns about the design, and what they are.

    Most Useful Information : I love it, but I have some concerns OR I think that's a terrible idea because (concerns). Then explain (concerns)

    This is basically the same as the previous example but with a further explanation of the specific concerns, and the use of stronger language to convey your feelings about the mechanic.

    This bothered me so much that during our company outing last and team building event last year I brought it up and made everyone promise to never use the words "pwede naman" again in a work context. Did I succeed? Well...pwede naman.

    Conclusion

    Any team of more than one person requires good communication in order to succeed, or at least have a more harmonious work environment. This is even more important in smaller teams. In large organizations poor communicators can be hidden away or have better communicators or team leaders assigned to them in order to facilitate communication. In a small team, there's nowhere for these issues to hide. This is especially important if you are the leader of your team. You may not think that there is a communication issue because, well, people never communicate it to you. But in fact people are either too scared of you to ask for clarification or will just make their own assumptions about what you meant, either of which will lead to bad outcomes in the long run.

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