No Rumors

No Rumors

I take great pride in the fact that my daughter’s first word was not “no!”  It was, in fact, “ah-ki-san.” It took me days to realize that ah-ki-san meant “out came the sun” and she was asking me to sing The Itsy Bitsy Spider.

I took particular care that her first word be anything except “no” because I knew that the first word she spoke was a reflection of me and my parenting. What was I modeling for her? Her first word was also my first feedback on how things were going.

The concept of No Secrets, No Surprises, No Rumors focuses on communication and feedback within the team, and although phrased in terms of what you don’t want, this concept should be explained to your team in terms of what you do what – direct, straightforward communication about any concerns with your project, even if they are only rumors or slight doubts.

An Example

I spent more than a year heading up a mission-critical migration project with dozens of direct team members from various disciplines. We also had 9 specialized enabling teams spread across the enterprise, which was geographically diverse across the US, and a team in India. Added to this mix was additional on-site staff from 3 consulting firms.

More than with any other project I’ve managed, clear, concise communication was critical with this complex team; an error or misunderstanding could easily cost days of effort.

This meant that aside from diligence in my communication out to the team, I also needed to be diligent in listening and understanding what they were saying back to me during project meetings and daily stand-ups. And, even further, I needed to know about the doubts, rumors, and any misgivings my team had. These are important to surface not only for team morale, but also because they are usually the seeds of undiscovered risks that should be documented and worked.

So, I asked the team to do three things:

1. come to me with any misgivings or doubts they have, or that they may overhear
2. contact me with any comments on the details I was providing in meetings and reports
3. inform me immediately – not wait for the next meeting – if they discovered something that could be a risk or issue

In return, I promised that I would listen to their comments, and that we would keep talking until they agreed that their concerns were understood by me. Further, they could go above me to the execs if they weren’t happy with my response – I’d even set up the meeting!

Over the next several months I had 2 or 3 conversations per week with teammates regarding their concerns. Some lead to significant changes in our plan; some didn’t change anything at all. Either way, I always made sure I that I understood what they had said, and that they understood what I was going to do. That way, I knew they’d keep coming back to me. After all, you can only fix something if you know about it.