Are your Cross-Functional Project Teams Talking the Same Language?

Are your Cross-Functional Project Teams Talking the Same Language?

I recently watched a discussion between a Product Developer and a Marketer from an organization that I am working for, regarding technical capabilities for a new product. 

The Marketer asked if a certain format was possible for a project that was actively moving towards an aggressive launch date.  The product developer began to pull from their Rolodex of experiences and quickly answered back, “Sure, that’s possible.”  We ended the call, everyone was content and we went about our business.  When we had our next project meeting, the Marketer announced that we were going to change to the format that he had mentioned.  With six months before we launched, I panicked thinking, “The developer never said that we could do it within the timeline!”

In the meeting, I clarified that this format was possible, but not in the timing that was desired.  This correspondence made me think about the language barrier between the functions, specifically Marketing and R&D and how these two people had just committed the “DRIVE BY” communication.  They talked at each other for a couple of seconds and then moved on, causing damage and confusion.

When the developer said it was possible, what they meant was that theoretically, it could be done.  This is a common literal perspective from a developer.  What the Marketer heard was we can do this, and we are moving forward.  Both of them figured that the conversation was settled, and the trajectory was aligned.   So, they moved on.

Following the meeting, I brought the Marketer and Product Developer together to talk about the miscommunication and it became clear that they didn’t ensure clarity in what they were saying.  They didn’t clarify a few key words in the conversation, sending them into misalignment.  Had we continued down the path of development with this project and not caught this miscommunication, we would have lost valuable months and dollars, chasing two different visions of our concept, followed by finger pointing and blaming the other party for not listening.

Take the time to unpack the conversation and avoid the DRIVE BY.  Ask questions.  Align on deliverables and be clear about what it is going to take to make the vision happen.  For the sake of speed, we rush through conversations and more importantly we make assumptions on meaning and context.  Avoid passing by each other vs walking the path together.  It will slow you down and cost you valuable dollars.