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Posted by on Dec 9, 2013

You’ve Got the “Write” Stuff – Top 10 Pitfalls of Effective Fed-Contractor Communication

OK, So the New Kids on the Block song may be a bit out of date.  (I wouldn’t necessarily still call them “new”).  But having the right stuff in collaborative work environments is still vitally important – specifically with the Fed-Contractor relationship, as it relates to these large-scale (and high profile) projects and programs.

But what do I mean by the “write” stuff?  Well, in an era of practically only written communication, if you think about it, (email, text, etc.) everyone – regardless of career – should be effective written communicators.

The Federal government is no exception, particularly given these large-scale projects that encompass hundreds of Federal employees and various contractors, all trying to work together to successfully complete projects on time and on budget – there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen.

In one of our project management books by Jeff Furman, PMP, he outlines some of the issues in written communications we should be all on the lookout for, including:

  1. Make sure your subject line aligns with the email content.  Specifically?  Don’t feel the need to keep replying off an ancient email with new discussions
  2. Be concise – emails are not epic novels.  Get to the point early and clearly
  3. Replying and replying all are two very different emails  – reply to all on the email chain only when it is needed
  4. People can tell if you mass email them (i.e. you get an email with the sender BCC’ed), it is worth your time to make your communication personalized to the person you’re asking something from
  5. Clearly in your email, line out the necessary action items and who is to take what.  By taking the time to outline this, you will save time in the long run with unnecessary follow ups you could have avoided
  6. Spellcheck has been around for ages – please use it.  Sending a note with spelling or grammatical errors make you look unprofessional
  7. If you are attaching or linking to something, take an extra second to ensure they work properly.  Recipients can get frustrated if you send these out and they are not working correctly
  8. ALL CAPS EMAILS MAKE YOU SEEM ANGRY EVEN IF YOU DO NOT MEAN IT THAT WAY
  9. If you forward an email – do so with more than an “FYI.”  Take time to write to that recipient why you are forwarding, and what you expect of them from this email
  10. Finally – written communication isn’t always the best.  Learn what kinds of issues, discussions, and topics may be better (and faster) handled by a quick in-person conversation

So does your agency have the “write” stuff?  Or, more importantly, do you?  What’s been your most entertaining work-related email discussion to date?

Share your thoughts on the pitfalls above – do you agree?  What’s been your experience?  And – keep an eye out.  My next installment will address face-to-face communication pitfalls.

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