I like to think of myself as a reasonably good communicator. Maybe that's just hubris, but having worked in marketing and sales, hopefully I've learned a few things about communicating and getting my point across. However, I've had some lessons on communication foisted on me this week.
First, I've learned (or really re-learned) to ensure that everyone on a team has the same expectations about what the goals are, what we are trying to produce, and the roles for every person. Recently we were working with a person in another firm who seems to believe that any constraint, any commitment is changeable at any point in time. I am not certain whether this person does not understand the chaos she causes in constantly changing her mind, or if she has a sinister plan, but I have learned to carefully establish my expectations and communicate and document them. That way I can defend the direction and goals of our project and demonstrate why the latest change she introduces is contrary to the project goals. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice..well, that wasn't going to happen.
The second thing I learned about communication is what my dad (the ex-Marine) always called the KISS principle - Keep It Simple Stupid. I was reading a book review in the WSJ about a book called "Why Business People Talk Like Idiots", and recognized a lot of web text and white paper buzzspeak that I have been guilty of as well. I need to learn to speak and write as concisely and clearly as possible, and with the absolute minimum of jargon, buzz words and so forth. In case you're wondering, no, I haven't read the book, and the WSJ did not give it glowing marks.
Finally, I learned, from a comment left on my blog, that while business people think IT people speak in three letter acronyms (ERP, CRM, EAI), IT folks think business people speak in ancient tongues as well. This comment was a very fair assessment, as I remember one CFO of a company I worked for would bring up EBITDA in every meeting I ever had with him. In fact, I'm not sure he worried about anything else but EBITDA. We business types need to learn to explain, without acronyms and business-speak, exactly what we want from our computer systems. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.