LIMS communications go on, every day. Sales people, business analysts and system administrators all make presentations, and team members are sharing ideas.
It’s Not Just About Sales and Management
We talk about the “soft skills” of project management as including topics such as communications. We try to help our sales people give better demos and have better communications with customers. We look for more methods for managers and employees to communicate, as well.
In addition, if we read some of the job ads for jobs such as project management, sales and management, they’ll tend to mention having “great” communication skills. Some of them will specifically say what it is they mean by that.
In that, let’s not forget everyone else. Everyone else is part of the LIMS communications cycle, as well.
LIMS Communications Examples
Suppose that you are working on a LIMS project. Here are some LIMS communcations examples:
- If you’re the business analyst, you work with customers to elicit their needs and their business process. You write documents and make presentations to those customers and to other people.
- You might be a programmer and you still have to communicate. You’ll probably write design documents. You might write unit or system integration testing scripts. You might be presenting proposed technical solutions to other people.
- Even if you’re sitting on phone support, you deal with people all the time. You’re talking on the phone. You’re trying to understand what they need. You’re answering e-mails with your resolutions to their questions. You’re communicating all the time, basically.
You can see that everyone has some level of written and oral communication they must deal with. Whether it’s to internal or external people, it’s still an ongoing challenge. In addition, the larger the team, the more that constant communications are going on.
For example, how often have you seen a team lead with something like seven chat sessions open? And you see them trying to respond to team members to keep them working and find answers for them. It’s not uncommon. Even when you’re not the team lead, you might have had this happen to you if you’re the “go to” person for one topic or another.
Communications Tips for Technical People
Two days ago, Red Hat quoted me in their blog. If you don’t know them, they’re probably most famous for their Red Hat Linux, but they produce other things, as well. In any case, they posted, “7 Tips for sysadmins to Improve Communication Skills.”
These tips are meant for technical people. However, anyone looking to improve their communication skills might find useful tips.
LIMS Communications Example: Documentation
A few years ago, I worked with a project where the BA (Business Analyst) put a lot of work into the work process documents, as BAs tend to do. When I began the project, the BA handed me the documents to read. I read them and returned with some questions. The BA told me that everything was in there, that it was all “self-explanatory” and refused to answer any of my questions.
Let’s just take a sidebar. Some of you already know I have a problem with claims of anything, code or documents, being called “self-explanatory” so I’ll admit it rose the red flag for me, but I’ll continue…
In any case, I thought I’d have to find other ways to get the necessary information. However, as I remained on the project, realized that no-one else fully understood those documents, either. By the way, this is one of those Agile project cases where, sprint-after-sprint, nothing got accomplished. In this case, it was because the team didn’t understand enough details of the business process.
My point in this example is that the person did work hard on these documents and did product strong results. But where they failed is that they thought their communication with the team was over. Tip: It’s NEVER over! LIMS communications take place, constantly, and through the entire project process.
LIMS Communications Example: Training
In a similar example, I was on a project where one of the team members was doing all the training of the business people. This person wasn’t a trained trainer but truly enjoyed giving training.
However, this person confided in me that their users were “total idiots” and couldn’t remember anything.
Let’s just take another sidebar, here. I met these users and I’ll just say that I can see that there were a lot of special challenges in the situation. On the other hand, I think when you see your users as “total idiots” that they probably pick up on this and aren’t going to learn from you as well as they would as if they felt you were giving them some credit for at least trying.
Anyway, while I did feel some sympathy for this person, I also sat in some support calls this person handled. In those calls, it was common for the users that had been trained to call with an issue that got the response of, “No, you’re not having that problem.” If you can imagine these calls ended in, “Yes, I am.” and “No, you’re not.” and continuing back-and-forth in that manner, then you’re correct.
And, by the way, the bugs the users were reporting were bona-fide issues and I was eventually able to demonstrate how to fix or workaround each one, once everyone got calmer about it.
But the point is that communication requires truly paying attention to the other person’s communication needs. It’s partly about listening and trying to understand them, but also in making them aware that that’s what you’re doing. LIMS communications are more complicated than merely talking and writing things down.
LIMS Communications Example: Ongoing Communications
Project managers often begin the project by telling all of us on the team that their pet peeve is when we hold in issues and don’t share them. It drives project managers crazy when we hold back slipping deadlines and other issues.
My point in bringing this up is that, whether or not you like giving your project update to the project manager, whether or not you like dealing with people, if you want to remain on these projects, you just have to do it. Everyone has to do it. Technical people, business people – it doesn’t matter. Everyone has to keep the communications flowing. If you’re stuck with a bad project manager, just do your best.
Most project managers are aware of these types of issues and work hard to drill it into all of us that we have to keep the communications flowing, especially on large, complex projects. Yet, it does still happen. LIMS communications, as I mentioned, must be continuous.
My Top LIMS Communications Tip
Watch for miscommunication to happen.
Just stay alert to it. No matter how well you think you know another person, no matter how great a job you did writing a document or presenting something, be aware that someone else might misunderstand your focus.
With all this said, let’s stop saying things like, “I’m a great communicator.” When I hear a person bragging about what a great communicator they are, what they usually tend to mean is, “I communicated and now I’m done. I’m awesome and deal with it.” If you think that’s how communication works then, actually, you’re just wrong.
My Secondary LIMS Communications Tip
Complaining isn’t bad in and of itself, and it’s not a bad way to blow off steam, but there’s a point where it’s counterproductive. If people don’t feel free to complain, there’s something wrong with the project. It means there’s too much fear on the project. On the other hand, if work doesn’t get accomlished done because there’s constant complaining, that’s a serious problem, as well.
In addition, when complaints too often involve the word “them” or “those people,” you need to rethink your complaints. If you’re seeing other groups of people as the “enemy” then you’re probably having communication problems with them that need to be resolved.
Here are examples of “those people” that we need to work with:
- Other companies, such as the customer and the software vendor seeing themselves as being on two different sides. They’re both working on the same project, by the way.
- Other generations besides your own.
- A different site.
- People working in a different team or department. IT and the labs are often those two sides.
- People who speak your own language in a manner different from how you speak it (whether they’re from a different country than you or people from another part of the country than you).