Archive | March, 2013

Effective Communication

20 Mar

There are many alternatives to workplace communication such as email, texting, voicemail, social media and face-to-face meetings.  The variety of options only proves to highlight the importance of selecting the most appropriate method of communication to facilitate the conversation (Richman, 2012).  Based on the given situation and message that has to be exchanged, the correct medium must be used and the proper cues must be included.  Communication is not just the words that you use but also the spirit and attitude that is employed (Stolovitch, n.d.).

In the face-to-face meeting presented, I felt the real urgency of the matter was lost a little in the facial gestures and the tone of the speaker.  Though she was professional and courteous, the casual nature of the interaction really detracted from the true meaning of the message.  The speaker’s posture of leaning on the wall gave that non-verbal cue of that the request is no big deal.  The smiling and more informal nature of the in-person meeting contradicted the urgency of the request.

The audio request eliminated the non-verbal cues of body language and facial expression that the face-to-face meeting had but still lacked the urgency of the request.  Though I would have expected the voicemail request to be less effective than the face-to-face meeting, I actually felt like there was more of a sense of urgency to the request.  The pace of the speaker seemed more direct and inflective.  Even though both the face-to-face and verbal methods of communication were cordial and professional, the voice mail conveyed the true importance that was required.

Surprisingly, I felt the most effective means of communication in this particular instance was the actual email.  Though it eliminated all tone, inflection and body language cues, it also eliminated any confusion those cues offered.  When communicating, the goal is to avoid any ambiguity in the message by being clear and concise (Portny et al., 2008).  In this case, the email followed the correct format of effective communication as presented by Stolovitch (n.d).  It showed a clear statement of purpose, stated the situation, exact requirements and potential consequences.   By offering alternative methods of communicating the data back to the requestor in a business friendly and respectful tone, I, as the recipient, felt most compelled to help.

According to Stolovitch (n.d.), the important information should be communicated live and in person with a written follow-up to ensure there is a record of the meeting.  When reading, listening to and watching the three different presentation formats, I was surprised that this postulation was not the most appropriate manner of communication in this instance.  Communication techniques are not one-size-fits-all proposals so they need to be tailored to the audience and environment individually (Stolovitch & Kramer, n.d.).  In this case, the email was the most appropriate way to communicate the message.  Words in a written communication must be taken at face value and, as long as there is no room for misinterpretation, the message will be conveyed completely.  Since this request was not complex it could be communicated through email in the most effective manner.  Words, facial expressions, posture, hand gestures, body language and tone are all factors in the interpretation of a message.  If any are conflicting with another, there could be confusion in the delivery of the meaning.

 

References

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Richman, B. (2012, August 17). Face-to-face communication can help you accomplish business objectives. Retrieved from http://www.bizjournals.com/memphis/print-edition/2012/08/17/face-to-face-communication-can-help.html?page=all

Stolovitch, H. (n.d.). Communicating with stakeholders.  . Lecture presented for Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved March 19, 2013 from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_2652514_1%26url%3D

Stolovitch, H. & Kramer, C. (n.d.). Project management concerns: Communication strategies and organizational culture.  . Lecture presented for Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved March 19, 2013 from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_2652514_1%26url%3D

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A Project Post-mortem

14 Mar

Installation of a new piece of equipment for a new product is never easy.  There is always something that goes wrong.  When creating a validation plan for the installation and subsequent testing of the equipment, you have to make sure all the possible failure modes are examined and challenged.  Sometimes, new things pop up that cannot be predicted.  This was the case when trying to validate a 1-gram desiccant pouch into our product.

The original product design used a 3-gram silica gel desiccant sachet in sealed bag for moisture control.  The project was to change to a 1 g desiccant for an annual savings of $400,000.  The 1 g desiccant would be from a new supplier and also require a different style cutter on the equipment.  The cutter assembly was contracted to an outside firm and the test samples were obtained.  After installation, we found that the new supplier did not keep as tight of a control on the straightness of the packets on the spool which caused the packets to jam in the drop chute.  We also discovered that they did not seal the seams in the same manner causing detection issues with our optics.  The 1 g packet was also significantly lighter than the 3 g causing a placement issue in the final bag.  The first two problems were easily rectified with a minor design change to the chute and an optic change.  The placement issue, however, is still troubling us today.

We have now set up another project team to deal with the placement issue but there are some things that we are learning that we missed when the new desiccant entered production.  The biggest takeaway is the interaction between the new, lighter desiccant and the coefficient of friction in the foil of the final bag.  Lower coefficient of friction combined with a lighter desiccant yields positional issues, something that was masked with the weight of the heavier desiccant.  Due to the lack of some initial planning, a second project is needed to deal with the unseen consequences of the first.  Unidentified issues will always be part of project management, but knowledgeable managers can locate answers to undefined issues and take educated guesses for others (Portny et al., 2008).

There was a failure in the initial project team.  Portny et al. (2008) mentions that you must define the roles of the project team members from the outset.  In this case, we never involved the foil SME in the implementation of the new desiccant as we never considered the correlation between foil and desiccant.  It is the project manager’s duty select the team members and to identify both the roles and responsibilities (Murphy, 1994).  By neglecting to include a SME on the foil left some potentially key information hidden until after the problem was realized.  It was my failure as project manager to not create more diverse and better represented project team.

Another failure point was that we did not perform a full failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) from the outset, this relationship may have been discovered.  An FMEA is a step-by-step analysis of the process in an attempt to identify all potential causes of failures in a process and the consequences of their effects.

Failure modes and effects analysis also documents current knowledge and actions about the risks of failures, for use in continuous improvement. FMEA is used during design to prevent failures. Later it’s used for control, before and during ongoing operation of the process. Ideally, FMEA begins during the earliest conceptual stages of design and continues throughout the life of the product or service. (ASQ, n.d., n.p.)

Like the ADDIE process, an FMEA is a systematic approach to a problem.  If we had conducted a logical review of the potential problems, we might have caught the issue or, at a minimum, realized that we did not include the appropriate groups from the outset (Van Rekom, Achong, & Budrovich, n.d.).  Systematic tools like ADDIE and FMEA are excellent means of determining the true character of a problem in a methodical manner (Clark, 2011).

References

ASQ. (n.d.). Failure mode effects analysis (FMEA). Retrieved March 13, 2013 from http://asq.org/learn-about-quality/process-analysis-tools/overview/fmea.html

Clark, D. (2011, September 26). ADDIE model.  Big dog & little dogs’ performance juxtaposition. [Blog Posting].  Retrieved from http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/history_isd/addie.html#zen

Murphy, C. (1994). Utilizing project management techniques in the design of instructional materials. Performance & Instruction, 33(3), 9–11.

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Van Rekom, P., Achong, V., & Budrovich, V. (n.d.). Practitioner voices: Scope creep.  . Lecture presented for Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved March 12, 2013 from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_2652514_1%26url%3D

Continuing On

10 Mar

The next class in my quest for a Master’s Degree in Instructional Design from Walden University will be Project Management in Education and Training.

A Reflection on Distance Learning

2 Mar

As technology advances and there are more and more capabilities, so will distance education. Where students once participated in correspondence courses through the mail where weeks can go by between letters, now they can communicate on discussion boards where virtually instant responses are possible. Gone are the days where a student was required to watch a television program at a certain time to see the professor’s lecture. This requirement has been replaced with video that can be watched at any time from any place through the use of streaming media on the internet. As technology has been incorporated into lesson plans of teachers, professors and corporate trainers around the world, the positive perception of distance learning is increasing. Siemens (n.d.) states that the rising acceptance of online education is “fueled by an increase in online communication, practical experience with new tools, growing comfort with online discourse, and the ability to communicate with diverse and global groups” (n.p.). As technology becomes more commonplace in daily activities, distance learning will continue to gain recognition as an acceptable educational method.
In the next five to 10 years, distance learning will continue to become a more prevalent and accepted method for obtaining a higher education. Where it was once thought that the only satisfactory method to engage the student to promote proper learning for certain courses was in the classroom, the increased capabilities of technology are now proving that it is possible to teach these classes in a blended environment. With more and more people experiencing distance learning, the perceptions will change. According to the study by Schmidt and Gallegos (2001), “respondents who had experience with distance education had more concrete suggestions and comments directly related to deliver of a course via distance delivery than those who had none” (p. 5). Instead of making generalizations about something a person has never experienced, people will become more and more knowledgeable about distance learning and its benefits. Common misconceptions of society can be eliminated through participation in the activity. Any misconceptions in the quality that can be achieved through distance education should be eliminated in the next 10 to 20 years.
Instructional designers must become proponents for improving society’s opinion of what distance learning is. The first way to do this is to prove that solid lessons can be delivered in the online environment. Increased contributions by experts around the world will add credibility to the notion that distance learning can be equivalent, and in some cases more effective, than traditional face-to-face education (Siemens, n.d.). The field of distance education is extremely diverse and continually changing. “New technologies and new ideas about student learning challenge the traditional techniques for the practice of distance education” (Simonson, 1999, p. 5). It is up to us to endorse the idea that the education received during online instruction is not necessarily the same, but equivalent to the face-to-face environment (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2012). The other way to change the societal view of lower standing distance education has when academic integrity is concerned. We must work together with administrators to leverage the high reputations of our institutions to prove that the academic standard of the online course is equivalent to the campus program.
It is our responsibility as instructional designers to help continue this growth and acceptance. IDs must remain a positive force for continuous improvement in the incorporation of distance learning in all settings. Corporate trainers should embrace the use of the internet to deliver content to their learners. Teachers from elementary school classes through graduate coursework must continue to demonstrate that the flexibility and student-centered learning environment offered by distance learning is a way to promote individuality of the student (Simonson et al., 2012). Skeptics will offer that the lack of face-to-face communication and interaction between the students and the teacher is a detriment to the learning process. To counteract this opinion, we must make use of technologies such as Skype and FaceTime that allow students to make video calls from computers or Smartphones. The more experience people have with online communication in normal daily life, the more apt they will to be accepting of its practical use in education (Siemens, n.d.).

References

Schmidt, E., & Gallegos, A. (2001). Distance learning: Issues and concerns of distance learners. Journal of Industrial Technology, 17(3). Retrieved from http://atmae.org/jit/Articles/schmidt041801.pdf

Siemens, G. (n.d.). The future of distance education. Lecture presented for Laureate Education, Inc. Retrieved February 27, 2013, from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_2095296_1%26url%3D

Simonson, M. (1999). Equivalency theory and distance education. TechTrends, 43(5).

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M., & Zvacek, S. (2012). Teaching and learning at a distance: Foundations of distance education (5th ed.) Boston, MA: Pearson.