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Communication skills for PD&D teams Steve Dyson. 2 Outline 1.Communication in engineering projects Sender/receiver model Communications-critical phases.

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Presentation on theme: "Communication skills for PD&D teams Steve Dyson. 2 Outline 1.Communication in engineering projects Sender/receiver model Communications-critical phases."— Presentation transcript:

1 Communication skills for PD&D teams Steve Dyson

2 2 Outline 1.Communication in engineering projects Sender/receiver model Communications-critical phases 2.Tech. comm.: Basic concept + Tips Audience-centred communication Tips: tech. writing, PowerPoint slides 3.Communication failures + responses Cultural differences 4.Localization & catalogues

3 Communication in engineering projects Sender/receiver model Communications-critical phases

4 Communication: Basic Sender/Receiver Model message sender receiver


6 Encoding and decoding experience, feelings, history, expectations, fears sender receiver sends information feelings, experience, history, fears expectations,


8 Product planning Product planning Product Design & Development: A six-phase process Concept Development Concept Development System-Level Design System-Level Design Detail Design Detail Design Testing and Refinement Testing and Refinement Production Ramp-Up Production Ramp-Up Product development proper: Four phases Documents serve as input and output media for key phases. Communication between groups of, say, engineers can be challenging. However, the situation can generally be resolved by discussion between the groups. Communication between groups with different backgrounds and/or interests often requires deeper analysis, better strategies, and "outside- the-box" thinking.

9 9 Audience Communication is easier between: people with similar backgrounds and training people who are used to working together.

10 10 Audience It is more difficult: between departments (design, marketing, etc.) between people with different backgrounds, languages, etc. for multidisciplinary, multi-department and engineering project teams.

11 11 Communications-critical steps Identify "communications-critical" steps. Identify audience and its needs. Assess scale of communication task. Tailor response to challenge: The more critical the task, the more effective the presentation or document needs to be, and the bigger the communication effort.

12 Technical communication Basic concept Tips

13 13 Audience-centred communication Focus on what audience wants to know and questions they want answered, _not_ what you want to tell them. Tell them what you're going to say, say it, then tell them what you've just said. If you fear that your audience may not be open to your ideas: – restrict your presentation to three main points – use rhetorical devices, including repetition.

14 14 Reader-centred writing Focus on what readers want to know and questions they want answered, _not_ what you want to tell them. Provide navigation devices. Consider "Information Mapping": – courses now available in Portugal.

15 15 Focus on: – Readers information needs – Readers technical knowledge – Readers language skills – Readers attitudes – The time they are likely to spend reading your document.

16 16 Un-learning … things you learned at school and at university. Reader-centred writing is radically different from: explaining to teachers (… who already know) writing at least X pages showing how well you can use sophisticated language avoiding (at all cost) repetition of words.

17 17 Answer readers likely questions Start by playing devils advocate: – Why should I read this? – Where does this information come from? – Which are the most important parts? – What am I expected to do next? – What does the competition have to say? What details or facts are your readers hoping to learn?

18 18 Writing tips: Making lists Lists are: – shorter than running text – easier to write and understand, especially if you use parallel structure. Use parallel structure, i.e., begin with: – verb (infinitive or conjugated; imperative, other) – gerund – noun (less powerful). (See also :

19 19 Keep It Short and Simple (KISS) Aim for an average sentence length of words But vary the pattern: medium, long, short, short, medium, short, long, medium, short, medium Maximum: 30 words, except in lists

20 20 KISS Remove unnecessary prepositions – in the region of --> about – as a means to --> to Remove other unnecessary words – complete monopoly – rectangular in shape –... the dusting problem... – these instruments have a marked tendency to drift

21 21 KISS: short, simple words Prefer Anglo-Saxon to Latinate words: – accelerate-->speed up – fabricate-->make – frequently-->often – principal-->main – utilize--> use – should it prove to be the case that -->if

22 22 KISS: Action in verbs Put the action into a verb – we made an application --> we applied – it provides a summary of --> it summarizes –... the addition of talc is done in two steps --> Talc is added in two steps – We have a lot of knowledge of... --> We know a lot about...

23 23 KISS: Examples – Commence inspection of the facility upon completion of the final stage --> Inspect the building after the final stage – A reduction in the quantity of the data by a factor of two results in a corresponding enhancement of the capabilities of the system --> Halving the amount of data makes the program run twice as fast

24 24 In recent years the traditional brick sector has adopted new technologies that have resulted in higher productivity levels and are better able to meet the requirements of modern architecture in terms of product quality and diversity. --> In the traditional brick sector, new technologies have increased productivity, product quality and architectural variety.

25 25 Eliminar palavras inúteis Existem as competências a nível nacional para iniciar e completar a implementação de soluções globais e sistemáticas de cariz moderno para a problemática referida. --> Temos capacidade no país para resolver o problema. "Passeio Aleatório", Nuno Crato (Expresso, Única, 22/11/03, p115) Site:

26 26 Ladder of abstraction Anglo-saxons often prefer words low on the ladder of abstraction Latins often prefer words higher up the ladder.

27 PowerPoint slides

28 28 Steps and tips1 1.Select a plain, easy-to-read template Although visually attractive, text boxes make manipulation, translation and updating difficult. 2.Deselect Auto-fit. In PowerPoint XP: 1.Go to Tools/AutoCorrect Options/AutoFormat As You Type. 2.Deselect "Auto-fit body text to placeholder".

29 29 Steps and tips2 3.Follow advice of Office Assistant. The Office Assistant can be confusing and irritating, especially in Word. In PowerPoint, it generally offers good advice, especially on formatting. 4.Apply 6x6 rule: 6 lines, 6 words each or 40-word rule (i.e. 40 words per slide). 5.Use parallel grammatical constructions for each set of bulleted points. This set (points 1 to 5) uses imperative verbs.

30 30 PowerPoint: Limitations Be aware, however, that PowerPoint also has severe limitations. As Edward Tufte says: "The problem with bullet points is that they can only represent the simplest relationships between things. They're good for making laundry lists or describing step-by-step procedures. The problem is that information is usually much more complex." More at:

31 31

32 32 Euro-communication situation Youre a Portuguese engineer and you have to give a presentation in L2 or L3 … You can read the language fairly well, but you don't speak it well enough to speak "off the cuff". What's the best presentation strategy?

33 33 Euro-communication solution 1.Get a second opinion (if possible from a native speaker) to check that your speech is clear enough to make a professional presentation. 2.Prepare PPT slides with plenty to read. It's more important to make a strong impression than it is to comply with the 6x6 rule and the like.

34 34 3.Consider preparing two versions of key slides: one with short bullet points, for the audience, one with additional text, for you to read aloud. 4.Consider displaying brief slides (6x6) while reading from printout of slides with notes. See File/Print, select Handouts (2 per page).

35 Communications failures and responses

36 36 Communications failures Who's responsible? – Sender: Virtually every time – Receiver: Hardly ever!!... and even if he/she is responsible, what point would there be to saying so?

37 37 Responses to failure: Review presentation with: carefully selected member of audience someone from outside your organization someone unfamiliar with the subject.

38 38 Review resources and strategies: Choose a different presenter Call in an outside specialist Learn how to speak better in public

39 39 Successive PD&D projects Regular PD&D team members should consider: developing standard forms and procedures studying how others handle project communications issues – Internet searches – External consultants

40 Cultural differences

41 41 Cultural differences _do_ exist! Cultural studies and their impact on good business are also increasingly popular, witness these TV advertisements by Anglo- Asian banking group HSBC.

42 ..\..\bbNetRef(a-p)\Cultural Studies CorpCult ++\HSBC mpg videos\Wedding Present mpg..\..\bbNetRef(a-p)\Cultural Studies CorpCult ++\HSBC mpg videos\Wedding Present mpg

43 43 Soundtrack Maltese guests at English wedding. Off-screen voice: In England, presents are given to the bride and groom to set them up in their new life … whereas, in Malta, guests can expect a present as a momento of the day.

44 ..\..\bbNetRef(a-p)\Cultural Studies CorpCult ++\HSBC mpg videos\Eels 30.mpg

45 45 Soundtrack British executive eating eels at Chinese restaurant with Chinese hosts. Off-screen voice: The English believe it's a slur on your host's food if you don't clear your plate … whereas the Chinese feel that you are questioning their generosity if you do …

46 46 What is Culture?1 A system for... sending, sorting and processing of information…research reveals that up to 80% of that information is communicated by means other than language A way of life...developed and communicated by people…to help create standards for people to survive and coexist...

47 47 What is Culture?2 a set of mental formulae developed by a particular group of people for survival and success software for the mind shared solutions to problems of external adaptation and internal integration.

48 48 What is Corporate Culture? Corporate Culture is the set of mental formulae developed, adopted and disseminated within an organization. CC can differ from national norms and change over time. In Portugal compare Sonae today with CUF pre CC also draws on the national culture, values and practices.

49 49 Culture and International Business Culture: – impacts the way strategic moves are presented – is the lens through which motivation occurs and is judged – influences management, decision making, and negotiations – influences nearly all business functions from accounting and finance to production and service.

50 50 Some names Leading names in cultural studied include: – Edward T. Hall (1959–1976) – Geert Hofstede* (~1970–2000): cultural typology – Fons Trompenaars – Shalom Schwartz (1992): Schwartz Value Inventory – Hampden-Turner (1997) – Spencer-Oatey (2000) – Stephan Dahl (2004): An Overview of Intercultural Research (

51 51 Geert Hofstede's model 1. Power distance 2. Individualism vs. collectivism 3. Femininity vs. masculinity 4. Uncertainty avoidance 5. Long-term vs. short-term orientation

52 52 Pros and cons Although each study uncovered many truths and presented useful concepts for understanding and comparing cultures, all suffer from serious shortcomings and have been severely criticised. Taken together, I believe that they can still help raise awareness to cultural issues even if they do not always provide workable solutions.

53 Johari Window (Making cultural differences discussible) Things I seeThings I don't see Things they see Things they don't see Open for discussion My blind spot Their blind spot Shared blind spot Use self- disclosure and feedback

54 "Localization" problem (Internet catalogues, etc.) Terminology for web sites

55 55 Localização de softwares Consiste em adaptar um software a um país ou uma região (= ao "locale") traduzindo os textos e adicionando componentes específicos ao idioma e à região.

56 56 Localização de um site Consiste em adaptar o site a um país ou uma região (= ao "local") traduzindo os textos e adicionando componentes específicos ao idioma e à região.

57 57 A localização de um site inclui: adaptação cultural tradução, no sentido tradicional gestão do projecto multilingue – conversão de formatos – alinhamento e gestão das "memórias da tradução" engenharia e testes ("usability testing").

58 58 p/l = wok/Ásia O produto é vendido sem quaisquer instruções! Os Asiáticos sabem cozinhar com o wok.

59 59 p/l = wok/resto do mundo + instruções + receitas Fora da Ásia a maioria das pessoas não sabe cozinhar com o wok.

60 60 p/l = cataplana/Portugal e Espanha O produto é vendido sem quaisquer instruções! Os Portugueses e os Espanhóis sabem cozinhar com a cataplana.

61 61 p/l = cataplana/resto do mundo + instruções + receitas Fora de Portugal quase ninguém sabe cozinhar com a cataplana.

62 62 (In 2001) Moulinex called it... presse-agrumes (FR) citrus press (EN) Zitruspresse (DE) citruspers (NL) spremiagrumi (IT) citruspressere (DA) exprimidor (ES) espremedor de citrinos (PT) sitruspressen (NO) citruspress (SV) sitruspusertimen (FI)

63 63 Search statistics (English) AltaVista normal mode (10/04/01) : lemon squeezer:987 orange juicer:193 citrus press:151 orange squeezer:94 AltaVista advanced mode (10/04/01) : "orange squeezer" + Moulinex:0

64 64 Search results (English) AltaVista "image search" (10/04/01) : citrus press:3 lemon squeezer:2 orange squeezer:2 orange juicer:2

65 65 Internet catalogues English-language section needs to be indexed using at least: lemon squeezer, orange squeezer, orange juicer, citrus juicer, citrus press,... Question is: How?

66 66 META tags How can one add synonyms, variants, etc. to Internet catalogues, etc.? Solution: HTML META tags... containing invisible keywords, that are recognized and indexed by certain search engines. Same applies to typos. (Think about spelling of destinations offered by a travel agency.)

67 Information Mapping® What is it?

68 68 Information Mapping Information Mapping® is a methodology for analysing, organizing, and presenting information based on the audience's needs and the purpose of the information. All information is presented in specially formatted "maps" comprising "chunks".

69 69 Information Mapping – Information Mapping (in Portuguese) by Formedia – Information Mapping in Europe

70 70 On-line resources: General – Writing course: – STC (Society for Technical Communication): – Free online library/index of technical communication articles and resources: – Plain Language resources: – Alternative view: "Plain Language in the Global Village", by Stephen Roney: 002/global_v/1.htm 002/global_v/1.htm

71 71 On-line resources: writing, etc. Writing resources for engineers, etc.: On-line English grammar: Writing mission statements: – "The Mission Primer, Four Steps to an Effective Mission Statement"

72 72 On-line resources On-line learning: – On-line technical writing courses: – On-line writing tips: Tips on presentation skills: –

73 73 Roundup 1.Communication in engineering projects Sender/receiver model Communications-critical phases 2.Tech. comm.: Basic concept + Tips Audience-centred communication Tips: tech. writing, PowerPoint slides 3.Communication failures + responses Cultural differences 4.Localization & catalogues

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