Explaining vs. Communicating

Josh Sherman
2 min read
Software Development

This isn’t a post about mansplaining or anything like that. I’m simply taking about explaining things instead of communicating them.

In regard to project management, explanations tend to be a reactive act. Explanations are a way to justify why a project is behind. You could easily swap “explanations” for “excuses” or “defenses”.

Communication on the other hand, can be a proactive thing. Daily stand ups, when done properly, are a proactive way to ensure that any road blocks are identified sooner than later.

When I say “done properly”, I mean that the person doing the stand up has to be self aware enough to recognize when they are facing roadblocks, and are honest enough to admit it.

There’s no shame in admitting you need help or aren’t living up to those horribly tight estimates you promised out. It’s these acts of humility, especially if done early, that can keep a project from going completely off the rails.

They can also help to avoid bouts of over explaining why things are behind in the future.

Personally speaking, I go out of my way to over communicate and rarely find myself having to explain things. Even when things fall behind, which happens to everybody from time to time, being open about it can make all of the difference in the world.

Communicating leads to a high level of transparency. If everybody is on the same page, there’s no surprises. Even when the shit hits the fan, if you’re communicating regularly, there’s a higher likelihood of getting the help you need to get back on track.

Sadly, at least from what I’ve seen with developers over the last 20 years, the majority of folks don’t want to admit when things are going wrong. Usually they will come around, but by the time they do, it’s usually too late to salvage the project timeline.

I’m a big fan of daily stand up reports, especially via bots like Standuply and Geekbot. I’m also not too proud to put it out in the open that “today sucked, I didn’t get done what I wanted to”.

Being 100% honest during daily stand ups does wonders.

It sets an early tone if things aren’t going the way I hoped. It gives me an opportunity to reflect on why things didn’t go my way. I even use the opportunity to scope out the next day and make a positive affirmation about how I’m going to kick tomorrow’s ass.

Is there such thing as over communicating?

Absolutely! But you need to have a really shitty manager.

I had one of these once. He asked me to stop updating my Asana tasks with notes about my current daily status because he didn’t only cared about when things were finished, and didn’t want to receive the notifications otherwise.

He didn’t care about what was going on until it was too late and things were to the point that he was pissed off and employees were forced to explain and justify what had happened.

Needless to say, I didn’t last there too long. Fortunately, managers like that seem to be their own special breed of awful that comes around once in a career.

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About Josh

Husband. Father. Pug dad. Musician. Founder of Holiday API, Head of Engineering and Emoji Specialist at Mailshake, and author of the best damn Lorem Ipsum Library for PHP.

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