Project Management

Choose the Best Communication Technique Available

From the Disciplined Agile Blog
by , , , , , ,

About this Blog

RSS

View Posts By:

Scott Ambler
Glen Little
Mark Lines
Valentin Mocanu
Daniel Gagnon
Joshua Barnes
Michael Richardson

Recent Posts

Videoconferencing Tips - How to Have Effective Calls

Examining the differences between DA and existing PMI materials

Spotlight on Product Portfolio Funding

Spotlight on Optimizing Flow

The End of Agile? No, the End of Undisciplined Agile.



Recently on the DAD LinkedIn discussion forum we’ve had an interesting conversation going on that strayed into the effectiveness of various communication techniques.  This conversation got me to thinking a bit about an article that I first wrote over a decade ago, Communication on Agile Software Projects, based on material in my Agile Modeling book.  This article extends some of Alistair Cockburn’s thinking on the topic, summarized in Figure 1, which in turn extends a body of work called Media Richness Theory.  The basic observation is that the richer the communication channel – such as email, videoconferencing, or face-to-face conversation – the more effective it is in practice.

Figure 1. Comparing the effectiveness of communication techniques.

Communication Modes

In the DAD book Mark and I said that the implication of Figure 1 was that given the situation you find yourself in that you should choose to use the most effective communication strategy available to you.  We thought that this was all that needed to be said, but since then we’ve come to realize that a better diagram is needed.  We developed Figure 2 which we believe communicates this strategy a bit more clearly.

Figure 2. Choosing the best communication technique for your situation.

Communication Modes Implications

Figure 2 indicates that that the viability of communication options available to you varies depending on the situation that you find yourself in.  For example, people on a co-located team can communication in pretty much any manner they choose.  Ideally they would choose face-to-face communication around a whiteboard or paper but there’s nothing stopping someone from writing a detailed document and then emailing it to someone sitting beside them.  When a team is geographically distributed they have fewer communication strategies available to them, unless of course they invest in travel so that they can be face-to-face.

Figure 2 also indicates strategies for capturing, or persisting, a conversation.  For example, a few people could have a conversation around a whiteboard, sketching the design of a screen perhaps.  When they’re done they might decide to take a digital snapshot of it so that they can retain the diagram to work on it later (many organizations still don’t provide permanent whiteboard space to their development teams).  They may even choose to have someone write up notes, perhaps on a wiki or in a word processor, and embed the snapshot(s) into those notes.

To summarize, when it comes to how people communicate with one another they have choices.  Disciplined agilists prefer to choose the most appropriate communication strategy for the situation that they find themselves in.

Posted by Scott Ambler on: January 09, 2014 04:03 AM | Permalink

Comments (0)

Please login or join to subscribe to this item


Please Login/Register to leave a comment.

ADVERTISEMENTS

While hunting in Africa, I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How an elephant got into my pajamas I'll never know.

- Groucho Marx

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsors