Panel Discussion "Gute Kommunikation"

     Gute Kommunikation - eine Investition die sich rechnet?
University of Vienna - Faculty of Computer Science
Währingerstraße 29, 1090 Vienna, Seminar Room SR7
Tuesday, 26th of February 2013


Podiumsdiskussion 26.02.2013

In the context of the iCom-project and the certificate course „Effective Communication”, computer science professor Renate Motschnig discussed with experts from practice challenges, obstacles, and potentials for good communication.

Representatives at podium:

·         Univ.-Prof. Dr. Renate Motschnig, Professor at the Faculty of Computer Science (University of Vienna) and Scientific Director of the certificate course „Effective Communication. An agile approach to project management and leadership”

·         Dipl.-Ing. Ernö Karl, Vice President, Intellectual Licensing – Europe, IBM

·         Christian Hauser, HR Business Partner, Microsoft

·         Dipl.-Ing. Hannes Färberböck, Managing Director, Anecon

·         Mag. Markus Schett, 42 virtual

The discussion was moderated by Heidi Aichinger (editor for newspaper Standard).

Communication is decisive for success

All discussants agreed that communication it a major success factor for a project’s progress, and consequently also a high risk factor. To implement successful projects, companies are depending on employees with excellent social and communicative skills.

This opinion was shared by Hannes Färberböck: technology plays a minor role if projects fail. Especially in IT projects, various persons with different professional background, interests, and skills are cooperating. Managing heterogeneous teams successfully relies on good communication between the team members. Therefore, the value of communication must not be neglected, argued the managing director of Anecon. Communication may be the crucial factor for project success. Particularly in critical situations (e.g. when customer, stakeholder and project team members communicate ineffectively, when objectives are not clearly defined, or when  decisions of individuals cause negative impact) communication is often the only way out.

Markus Schett agreed to these statements. Based on his large experiences as consultant he provided examples how inadequate communication leads to negative dynamics: information deficits increase, expectations diverge, trust within the team decreases, and conflicts escalate. To avoid such situations Markus Schett emphasized the importance of regularly communicating objectives, requirements and expectations. Assumptions often lead to wrong decision if the objectives are not well communicated. Further, individual’s opposed endeavors may compete against each other, and time, money, and energy is lost in the process.

Ernö Karl, who is active for IBM on a global level and has large experience in international project management, pointed out: “The more heterogeneous the cooperating companies’ cultures are, the more time needs to be invested to align objectives and take continuous communication measures.”

Comparably, Professor Renate Motschnig described how the results of her research and experience (largely impacted by the preceding iCom-project) were decisive for developing the certificate course “Effective Communication. An agile approach to project management and leadership”. Even though most project managers are aware of the importance of communication, the educational programmes on project management are – in general –, very technical and method-oriented. In order to close this existing gap, the certificate course offers project managers, person in leadership positions, IT-professionals, and persons with frequent customer cooperation a practice-oriented education. In various modules and different settings, participants elaborate real cases from practice and learn to apply theories and methods in practical situations. Through this experience-based learning approach, participants learn how to react to challenges with new and creative solution strategies, and how openness, respect and acceptance are facilitating their own interpersonal interactions.

Communication is decisive for success

The experts at the podium supported this scientific perspective: making own experiences is a significant step towards developing good communication skills. Companies, project partners and customers are often working beyond geographic borders and dealing with differences in language and culture. Furthermore, project managers in international cooperation are often obliged to communicate without the possibility for face-to-face interaction. In such conditions it is even more important to be conscious about communicative principles. Often, terms are used differently, and media-supported communication tools – which should help to overcome geographic and time boundaries – make communication even more difficult. In these situations, project manager need to be skilled dealing with such boundaries.

Empathy is essential

In the discussion, the experts identified another crucial component for managing projects successfully: in his international position at IBM, Ernö Karl experiences on a daily basis that the value of communication is actually measurable. Simply stated, a project’s success is directly linked to customers’ success. Customers decide about time, values, objects, etc. – and the project manager needs to react to these demands. Being able to empathically anticipate is therefore an essential competence for project managers and necessary for excellent communicative skills. Christian Hauser agreed to this close connection between communication and empathy. From his experience as HR expert, he knows that reacting empathically on the customer is a crucial characteristic of a successful project manager. Customer needs are the focus of every project – therefore, skilled team members need to recognize and explicate them. Further, he perceives benefits of investing in communication skills from a comprehensive perspective: good communication skills are not only supportive in practice, but in all interpersonal interactions. Therefore, investing in communication skills are of use to the whole society in a long-term.

Good communication – a field worth investing!

Throughout the discussion, the discussants stated clearly: any action and advancement in improving communication skills will pay off. Communication needs professional training and the certificate course “Effective Communication” reacts to this demand. Under this aspect, the certificate course is an adequate contribution in increasing chances for managers to succeed in their projects.