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Product Delivery Mindset #8: Precise communication

Read Time 4 mins | Written by: Kim Sullivan

Product Delivery Mindset #8: Precise communication

It’s easy to pass important information to others quickly between meetings, before you forget, or at the tail end of a call. It's fast, but it's not the best way to communicate if you want to deliver products on time. Rushing through communications easily leads to misalignments, dissatisfaction, and confusion.

Be intentional, not fast.

Being precise and intentional in your communication cannot be overstressed for successful product delivery.

Choose the right channel for communication

Take time to prepare your messaging beforehand - set the stage, state the facts, and give enough context to ensure a shared understanding. Tie key decisions and changes to the bigger picture so everyone involved understands how the new direction maps to overarching objectives. By knowing the drivers behind changes and how it helps the company achieve their goals, frustrations are often curbed.

Various forums can be used for critical communications. 

Some of my favorite methods include:

  • Weekly Monday morning kickoff
  • Routine communications in Slack
  • One-on-one chats with individuals who may be particularly impacted
  • Slack huddles with individuals after a meeting who appear unhappy or frustrated with a communication.

Using precise communication ensures clarity, prevents misunderstandings, and aligns teams with both the near- and long-term goals of a project. Remember, being a good communicator is not firing off messages rapidly and marking a to-do done. It’s about thoughtfulness, respect, and fostering trust with one another.

Anticipate emotional responses before key comms

  • Did your requested delivery timeframe get moved up by one month?
  • Did you cut a core component that one of your team members is passionate about?
  • Is someone leaving the team unexpectedly?
  • Did leadership decide to shut down your product?

All of these are common situations product development leaders face. Each must be passed on to team members with care.

In preparing your communication, anticipate emotional responses of various team members. Will one individual be particularly saddened or frustrated or angry?

Will one person bring a negative vibe to others?

Will someone take the news well and help support others?

Think through these probable responses of each player and take time to meet individually with certain folks in advance of the communication. Give them time to process before the wider announcement. Give them room to ask questions in a closed setting.

By prepping various individuals, the “bad news” announcement won’t be as worrisome to you and will pave the way for the right climate for a solid discussion.

Don't get fooled by the illusion of communication

My spouse often thinks a plan with a friend is “all set” when in fact it is not.

I don’t fault him as this happens to all of us, in a variety of settings. It’s very easy to leave a conversation believing you are on the same page with someone when in reality you are quite misaligned on the next steps, the go-forward plan, the decision made, etc. 

Be precise in your communication and make sure you are having the same conversation.

Is your team is on the same wavelength?

YES: the team is… moving towards the same goal, motivated in their work, knows overarching status wrt the next deliverable date, knows why they are building the current “thing.”

NO: the team is… unaware of the next deliverable, thinks the current “thing” is a waste of time, lost context as to why a given feature is important, has no clue when the project is “over.”

It’s very easy to get into the “No” state. All too often team members don’t speak up and you assume there is silent agreement because it’s Monday or people are “just low energy today.” Instead I assume unusual silence is disengagement, dissatisfaction, or confusion. Though this may not be the case, it’s better to investigate further and be proved wrong.

You can ensure everyone is on the same wavelength by asking probing questions such as:

  • Is our next deliverable on track?
  • What’s the confidence in an on-time delivery?
  • Does anyone think something else should be worked on now vs what is currently in-flight?
  • Do you think our current plan will help our users, and in turn help the company reach current objectives?

The team will either be able to answer these questions or… look confused / remain silent. If the former, great! People are in fact sleepy today. If the latter, it’s likely time to regroup on the current plan, product goals, company goals, how current work fits into the overarching roadmap, etc. 

These bigger picture pieces of information need to be reiterated more frequently than you think. Try a weekly Monday morning kickoff for 15m to stay out of the tactical weeds and stay connected at a higher, more strategic level. 

It’s a great time to share wins, hear concerns, reinforce key aspects of a project/plan, and set a positive, clear direction for the week.

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Kim uses LinkedIn to share her thoughts on product delivery, prioritization techniques, and enterprise product development and design. 

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Kim Sullivan

Kim Sullivan is the Head of Product & Design at Codingscape.