This is a glossary of project communication. It includes terms from the book as well as terms referred to in other articles or presentations by Mark Phillips.
This glossary defines and discusses terms which are newly introduced in the book, Reinventing Communication, or which are used in non-traditional ways. It is alphabetical except for the terms related to communication analytics. These are given at the end and are grouped in the order they are presented in the book to provide more relevant context for the terms. The material is copyrighted. The method discussed in the book is patent pending.
Communication Objects that are meant for a wide and diverse audience need to be able to speak to each group in that audience. For example, a mission statement for a project needs to speak to everyone in the Project Environment. A Communication Object that can meaningfully cross boundaries is called a boundary object. A boundary object is an artifact whose meaning, while different for different groups, has sufficient commonality across each group that everyone knows what everyone is talking about. For example, when I talk about a dog, I mean a house pet. When a veterinarian talks about a dog, they mean a patient. When someone who shows dogs talks about a dog, they mean a potential contestant in a dog show. Each of us uses the term according to our context and within our boundaries. Nonetheless, we all know what we’re talking about when we use the word “dog.” Project environments that utilize boundary objects produce different solutions from those that don’t.
The term “boundary object” was coined by the sociologist Susan Leigh Star in 1988.
Bricolage, Network Bricolage
Bricolage is the act of piecing together whatever is at hand to come up with a solution or means to capitalize on an opportunity. It is a refusal to accept given constraints as a limit on possibilities. Network bricolage is the act of tapping an existing network of contacts to find resources to solve problems or capitalize on opportunities.
The term “bricolage” was coined by the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss in 1967. “Network bricolage” was coined by Ted Baker, Anne S. Miner and Dale T. Eesley in 2003.
Communication is the information people receive. It is received through the full range of human senses and sense-making abilities. It includes information that is intentionally generated by a person, such as an e-mail which they send out. It also includes information that is unintentionally generated by a person, such as the way they treat another person and a third party’s observation of that treatment. Communication is the input people use to decide how to behave. It is the set of observations people use to learn behaviors and adapt to an environment. As such, communication directly shapes the reality in and of a project environment.
Communication Design is the design of the communication environment. It is the system design of how people communicate, interact and behave.
Communication Design Elements as well as
Elements of Communication Design and Design Elements
Elements of Communication Design are observable manifestations of communication design. They reflect the design of the communication environment and include intentional and unintentional actions and decisions.
The Communication Environment is the structure of an environment as it relates to communication. It determines the communication generated in an environment.
Communication Objects are the artifacts generated by the process of communication. A communication object is more than the information it is meant to contain; it is made up of numerous elements, including descriptors of the container itself. This is much like how an in-person conversation between two people is made up of non-verbal elements as well as the words in the conversation. Communication Objects encompass the “non-verbal” elements of communication and are a reflection of the design of the communication environment.
Communication Object Elements as well as
Elements of Communication Objects and Object Elements
Communication Object elements are the full range of measurable aspects of a communication object and are descriptors of a communication object. They play an important role in how communication objects are used, telling us about the communication environment and the people in the environment. They are generated by applying an analytic tool or method to communication objects.
Observable Manifestations are visible expressions of an underlying structure or process. For example, the structure of a project environment may not be readily apparent. However, the observable phenomena of schedule lateness can be observed. Another example is that the way someone thinks about uncertainty may not be readily apparent. However, the observable phenomena of limiting who a manager can use on a project team can be observed.
OODA as well as the OODA Loop
OODA is an acronym for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. It is a theory of human behavior proposed by John Boyd.1 It is used extensively throughout this book as an underlying description explaining human behavior. It proposes that human behavior in an environment can be understood as conforming to a four-stage process: observation of data in an environment, orientation relative to the data and the environment, decision making with respect to the data and the environment, and action within the environment. This process is iterative and is referred to as the OODA Loop.
1 John R. Boyd, “Patterns of Conflict,” briefing presentation, December 1986, available at: http://www.ausairpower.net/JRB/poc.pdf.
Orientation toward Uncertainty
Orientation toward Uncertainty describes how a project environment is designed to react to uncertainty. It is based on project environment participants’ perception of how great a role uncertainty plays in a project environment, as well as individual factors which motivate an orientation toward control or predictability. An environment’s orientation toward uncertainty impacts the solutions delivered y that project environment. Environments oriented to work with a high degree of uncertainty produce different outcomes than environments oriented to work with certainty. Orientation toward uncertainty is a design element of a project environment. It can be understood, measured and managed to increase the probability of delivering desired solutions.
Performance Management Tool
A Performance Management Tool is a conceptual construct for managing the solution delivery capabilities of a project environment. It identifies the relevant determinants of project performance and the inter-relationship of the determinants. Every performance management tool carries a set of underlying assumptions on the structure of a project environment and people’s behavior. These assumptions influence the way we perceive a project and the people involved with the project. As such, a performance management tool implicitly defines the reality of the project and how project participants are managed.
A project is a model for solving problems and accomplishing work. It is a model for organizing people, resources and information. There is a strict definition of a project as “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result.”2 In other words, it is different from operations which are an ongoing activity. However, projects have become a common model for thinking about work and human activity in general. The project model is being widely applied as a way to structure organizations, people and ongoing work efforts. As a result, project management and lessons from managing projects have an increasing applicability to the way in which organizations solve problems, accomplish work and produce. Conversely, lessons and tools from other fields that have long been focused on work and human activity are becoming increasingly relevant to thinking about projects and project management. This includes fields of study such as economics, communication, marketing, organizational theory, psychology, sociology and anthropology.
2 Project Management Institute, A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®Guide), 5th edn. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute, 2013.
A Project Environment is the broad environment in which the project takes place. It includes direct project factors, such as the people chosen to be part of the project team and the project budget. It also includes broader factors, such as how people are chosen to be part of the project team and the process for obtaining a budget. This definition of a project environment includes broad influences such as institutional context, regulations and culture. It also includes the influence of individuals and organizations that may not be classified as direct project stakeholders in a traditional definition of a project, such as Project Environment Participants.
Project Environment Participants as well as Project Participants
Project Environment Participants are the wide range of people and groups who can influence project outcomes. It includes traditionally defined participants such as the direct solution delivery team and commonly identified stakeholders, but it expands the definition to include other people and groups that influence project outcomes. For example, the project manager of a US government program may build their project plan without considering the influence of the US Congress. However, the US Congress approves all funds for government projects. If the Congress fails to approve the necessary funds, the program will run into problems regardless of the project manager’s project plan.
Project Environment Participants also include people and groups that influence the structure of a project environment. For example, a company’s human resources policy determines the people who are available for a project manager to use on their projects. Thus, the human resource department is a participant in the project environment.
Project Performance Management
Project Performance Management is the act of intentionally influencing a project environment to increase the probability of the project environment exhibiting the desired solution delivery capabilities. Traditionally, this has meant creating an expectation of the performance of schedule, budget and work product delivery, and then influencing the project environment so that it meets those expectations.
However, Project Performance Management is not limited to defining performance in those traditional terms; it can include a wide range of performance characteristics and solution delivery capabilities. For example, an environment can be managed to increase the probability of producing innovative, market-leading ideas, encourage creative problem solving and react quickly to changes in the market.
Project Performance Management is always a choice between alternatives. The design choices made about the structure of the project environment influence the range of alternatives available. This, in turn, influences the relative cost and probability of success of pursuing a specific set of performance characteristics and solution delivery capabilities. For example, an environment designed to repurpose commercially available technology in ways that provide a competitive advantage in the market, in order to keep research and development costs low, is far less likely to succeed in delivering market advantage solutions than an environment designed to deliver market advantage solutions using a small research and development budget. The budget numbers may be the same for both, but, because the means of producing the solution are not defined in the second case, the outcomes will likely be different. The second case has a much higher probability of success.
Revealed Preferences is an economic principle that states that we can understand people and their environment by observing the choices they make. The principle of revealed preferences facilitates inferences about decision- making processes and the information used to make those decisions.
Solution Delivery Capabilities
Solution Delivery Capabilities is a description of the solutions that an environment is capable of delivering. The description can be expressed in terms of a domain or boundary such as a software solution. The description can also be expressed in terms of a performance characteristic such as timeliness or innovation. For example, an environment can be described as able to deliver innovative software solutions on time and on budget.
Solution Delivery Process
The Solution Delivery Process is the process or processes by which an environment delivers solutions.
Structure, Structure of the Environment, Structure of the Project Environment, Communication Structure, Structure of the Communication Environment, etc.
Structure is the organizing principle for a specific domain. The Structure of the Project Environment, for example, is how the environment is organized with respect to projects. It can be viewed as a whole or it can be viewed through different lenses which expose a specific aspect of the project environment. For example, the Communication Structure is one lens through which to look at a project environment. It reveals the way the environment is organized with respect to communication in the project environment. It can be further analyzed and viewed through more focused lenses by applying analytic tools to the communication environment or to communication objects in the environment.
Integrated Communication Strategy (ICS) or
An Integrated Communication Strategy (ICS) is a combination of the decisions consciously taken to design the communication environment. It can include design decisions such as the schedule of communication, the workflow of communication, which methods of communication are used and the rules of using that method. When overlaid on top of a communication schedule, the ICS creates a time-phased, integrated description of communication activity in the project environment which can then be used to generate and perform communication analytics on the project environment.
Planned Communication (P COM)
Planned Communication (P COM) is the amount of communication planned, or scheduled, to take place over a particular period of time. It is expressed in the unit of measurement of the communication.
Actual Communication (A COM)
Actual Communication (A COM) is the actual amount of communication that took place over a particular period of time. It is expressed in the unit of measurement of the communication.
Communication Variance (COM V)
Communication Variance (COM V) is the variance between actual communication and planned communication for a particular period of time. It is A COM – P COM and is expressed in the unit of measurement of the communication.
Measurable Communication Action (MCA)
A Measurable Communication Action (MCA) is a single unit of measurement of communication in an environment. It provides a means to measure and integrate multiple communication methods, communication elements and design decisions into a single unit of measurement. It can be made up of a single method of communication or multiple methods of communication. The methods can be added together, giving all methods equal weight, or different methods can be weighted when combining them into an MCA. The weighting can reflect variables such as the relative value management places on each form of communication or the strictness with which communication design decisions are enforced for each method of communication. It can reflect the phase of the project or the expected activities for that period of time. It can be tweaked to increase sensitivity towards one method of communication over another to facilitate management awareness of unpredicted behavior.
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