Project Coordination: Practice the Hand-off

Coordination in architecture, engineering, and construction is all about the hand-off, just as it is in other businesses and in team sports. The hand-off happens all over the place, all the time. It is often accompanied by words like “You know what I mean”, “You get the point”, “Let’s not have a repeat of you-know-what”, “Just do it”, and other codewords. But the message may not be clear to the listener, and the listener may hand off to yet another listener with an additional editorial comment like “It’s another Chinese fire drill.” It’s the old story of the rumor traveling around a room: by the time it goes full circle, the message has changed considerably, having been edited with every hand-off. That’s why managers, administrators, and others need to allow themselves to get bored by repeating the same message in almost every detail – with a few notable exceptions: it’s important to tailor the delivery to the listener’s ability to understand and make use of the message, and it’s important to get immediate and periodic feedback to confirm understanding.

Tailoring the delivery means delivering the message in a way that acknowledges and respects the ability of the listener to understand the message and make appropriate and productive use of it. A highly skilled and familiar employee may be able to hear an abbreviated message – maybe just a headline – and fill in the blanks with a good understanding of the desired or needed outcome. “Two over, rye, and a side,” may be all the information that is needed in a situation where abbreviated communication has been developed through years of practice. In that case a lengthier description may be read as an insult – unnecessary micro-management. But a less skilled or less familiar employee may need more detail in order to make a connection with the message. In either case, immediate feedback can help to verify understanding of the message, and it may save a lot of time and money as a project goes forward. Familiarity is a key to the successful hand-off, because even a highly skilled new team member (employee, consultant, contractor, subcontractor, supplier, etc.) may bring a different understanding of the abbreviated message.

Posted in Project Management

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