The last time I had my car serviced at my dealer, it struck me how much those of us that are in IT/IS project management could learn from the best auto service shops.
This thought inspired the following PM communications pointers:
1. Don’t overwhelm the customer in technical jargon: good auto service advisors will talk in terms of the impact of a given mechanical issue and will not attempt to obfuscate through techno-babble. Take the “outside-in” (to steal a phrase from nGenera) view and speak in terms that a customer will understand and relate to.
2. Focus on a short list of risks and issues: stakeholders & sponsors (like car drivers) are busy people and don’t want to be drowned in minutia. I need to know that my brake pads need replacing very soon, but not that my car mats need a good wash. Presenting executives with tens of project issues of which less than 10% are of value to them is a good way to lose their interest.
3. Strike the right balance between project change control & poorly managed scope creep: good service advisors know that customer loyalty can be gained by giving away low cost services or parts but will always call a customer to let them know when a work estimate needs re-approval as a result of new information or a change in repair requirements. Too many project managers “nickel-and-dime” their customers in their blind focus on adhering to artificially established schedule & cost constraints.
4. Be proactive about (preventative maintenance) notifications: Executives have too many things on the go to remember all the risk response plans, actions and decisions that are on their plates. It is the responsibility of the project manager to ensure that appropriate communication with sufficient lead time is done to catalyze the necessary actions.
I’m sure there are plenty of other good lessons that could be learned, so feel free to share!