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Engineers are bad communicators: six ways to fix this (part 1)

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Awhile back, I posted about “Best Practices for Communicating between Engineers“.  This time around, I wanted to be a little more specific about how basic communication blunders can be avoided.  I’ve seen countless violations of these rules, and they always seem so easy to fix.

1) Don’t email if a phone call saves time

I think this applies to all industries, but I see engineers violate it the most.  Maybe it’s because engineers don’t like talking on the phone, maybe it’s because they don’t like talking period, but some will simply do whatever possible to avoid the quickest route to an answer.  I’ve seen engineers spend half an hour typing up a very complex email, attach drawings, etc, when five minutes on the phone gets a response immediately.

2) Minimize the number of key team members that are off-site

While I do support the occasional phone call, there are issues that are very difficult to tackle when everyone is in a different office.  There are times when everyone needs to be in the same room with a whiteboard.  I find this is especially important for the high-profile, high-pressure projects where everyone is working long hours.  With so much stress, phone calls every hour to try and stay sync’ed up is painstakingly difficult.  It’s also a waste of time to constantly find everyone and get them on the line all at once.

3) Drive meetings/schedules based on action items

I used to think the term “action item” was an overused buzzword that people liked to throw around to sound productive.  Now I swear by it.  If a meeting is necessary, that means work is going to result from it (or, at the very end of a cycle, results from previous work are being reviewed).  The only way to track work and progress is to have clear, actionable goals presented at each meeting.  Then, in the next meeting, you simply go one-by-one through the list, without digressing too much.  Sticking to this framework will certainly increase meeting time efficiency (making them shorter so real work can get done) and ensure that everyone stays on task.

I’m splitting this into two posts, so check for the next one soon…

Category: Blogs, Efficiency, Engineering & Design

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