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A Lesson Learned from Working on Projects


With any project, and especially with large, complex projects, there are difficulties to overcome along the way. At the start of a project in the planning phase, one plans a project scope, schedule, and budget. One plans on monitoring and controlling these aspects, but realizes they can change - and things can change no matter how hard or smart people are working.

A conference I recently attended was a summary of where we were at the time and what we could do going forward to work more efficiently and effectively. Over and over, the need for improved communication was stressed as one of the lessons learned.

I recalled that from graph theory it is known that with n people, there are M = n(n-1)/2 possible paths of communication between them. Here are some graphs for n = 2 to 6 people

As n gets large, M increases rapidly. For example, with only n = 12 people, there are M = 66 possible lines of communication. The total number of people and groups involved with the particular project is extremely large, and therefore M is astronomical. One has to identify the smiley faces, create lines between them, and then make sure that the method(s) of communication are established. For example, you might like receiving a weekly update of the project status in very minute detail, done in Excel. Your supervisor, however, might prefer receiving a monthly update, and only at a higher level, created in PowerPoint. All of these issues have to be thought about in a project's communication plan.

By improving communication, people can better understand their roles and responsibilities on a project, and pay more attention to risks and ways of mitigating them if they were to occur. Think about issues in your current work environment. How can you solve them by improving communication?

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