December 23, 2005 spout

PM Skill #1: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

I think the title says it all: if you’re a PM, you’ve got to communicate. That includes to your team, your management, your partners and your customers. As I mentioned, I’m a big fan of getting people’s raw feedback with informal chats. I also like to schedule regular 1:1s with as much of the team as I can.

For folks not on the immediate team, I like to give them updates at the ends of milestones in the form of a PowerPoint presentation. The outline often looks like this:

  • Milestone Goals
  • What we did
  • What we learned
  • What’s next (goals and activities for the next milestone)

This lets folks give feedback on several levels, i.e. did we pick the right goals, did we do the right things, how do we apply what we learned, what should we do next, etc. It also gives them lots of places to tell them how their own work and requirements fits in with ours so that we can make sure we stay in sync.

For these kinds of presentations, you know you’re not having them regularly enough if management has to ask for one or if you can’t put one together in a day or two. You want folks to see you communicate proactively, not reactively.

For folks on the team, I like to send around weekly (or near weekly) status emails:


  • goal 1 (100% done)
  • goal 2 (50% done)
  • etc.

In the last week, we …

In the next week, we’ll …

Tasks (from the bug database)
csells 452 12/13 Post PM Skill #1: Communication

I also like to post each status mail internally so that folks can skip a particular status or come into the team later and still get caught up quickly (a SharePoint site is excellent for this).

Often it’s the case that team members won’t read all (or even most) of your status emails. Don’t let that stop you from sending them! At the very least, it helps you keep your head around what’s going on and what needs doing. Also, it’s comforting for team members and management to know that status is available even if they don’t read the emails, because it lets them know that someone is watching the details. Plus, when someone asks a question that’s answered in the status, I tend to reply with the status email as an attachment, letting them know that someone’s all over things.