Thursday, March 17, 2005

Communication skills for software developers

In my previous post, I suggested that just improving communication skills could have a powerful effect on your efficiency in developing software. What was I talking about?

Let's take meeting skills, for one. Software developers facilitate and participate in a lot of meetings. There are some skills you can bring to bear to make those meetings more effective.

1. Are you a good meeting scheduler?

Do you prepare an agenda in advance, and distribute it to the participants, so that they know how they will be spending their time?

Do you make it clear what results you want to achieve by the end of the meeting?

Do you give participants suffient time to prepare for a meeting before holding it? Or do you grab a few people (or a single person) in the hallway while it's on your mind and just get their gut reactions?

Do you make sure to invite everybody who has something valuable to contribute, or has a say in decision-making? Otherwise you may find yourself revisiting everything again later.

2. Are you a good meeting facilitator?

Do you follow the scheduled agenda?

Do you make sure everyone gets a chance to provide their input, and assure nobody dominates the meeting (especially yourself)?

Do you steer people back to the topic at hand when they get off track?

3. Are you a good meeting recorder?

Do you make sure to accurately capture important information and decisions? Do you confirm with the group that you've done so before moving on?

Do you write legibly on whiteboards and flipcharts? Do you use them at all?

Do you provide complete meeting notes to those who attended the meeting, and to other interested parties?

There are other, more specific skills and tools you might bring to a brainstorming session, or a requirements gathering session, or a decision-making session.

As you become better at conducting good meetings, you'll find that you spend less time on them, and the results are more valuable.

Interested in learning more about effective meetings? Try How to Make Meetings Work: The New Interaction Method.

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