As I was thinking about getting ready for PMI Congress and our upcoming Project Management Communication War Stories Session, I kept coming up with example after example of communication moments that affected projects. It was like a deluge of past historical (and some hysterical) episodes. I was thinking of stressful ones that could have been avoided with a little more "chatter" among the team members and stakeholders. Also, I was thinking of funny ones that made us all laugh for how we let that happen. In addition, i was thinking of crazy ones that made us wonder how in the world we got here.
So there I was coming up with all these examples, when one hit me real-time right in the eyeballs. You might relate to this one: I call it a "jump ball."
Bascially, it is a situation in which everyone has somewhat clear roles, but the work task at hand has elements of many players and spans several responsiblities. In most cases (as in the one that hit my team), instead of going for the ball and owning it, players shy away from it expecting another team member to take it. Everyone rationalizes it, but no one communicates why he/she expects the other(s) to run with it. Bottom line is that the ball gets dropped.
Have you been there? Obviously, I was in one for sure. In my particular example, the team is launching a new capability within a device. The lead team member designs the capability/functionality. The engineering team designs the technical specifications by which this new capability works. My team was supporting the effort by providing the network functionality by which this new capability would leverage and work. Three groups...three roles...one effort. Simple enough, right?
Well, the lead team set up the business requirements but expected the functionality to be worked by another group. The engineering team set the specs, but could not leverage my team's network. My team thought that since engineering could not use our design and they had their own home grown option, that we were regulated to SME status and our work was basically over. Engineering thought the lead team had overall oversight. The lead team thought my team was driving the solution.
The problem is that we had no owner and no ETE solution that took the capability from the device and linked it to a network server that completed the "circuit" so to speak and provided the solution. The team was months along on the project and effectively had no solution. This was a true "jump ball" with no one running with it.
Does anyone reading this have examples of "jump balls" in which lack of communication and clarity of who is actually owning a task imperils a project? I would love to hear some "war stories" if you have them.