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#1 Cause of Claims - Communication
How important is project communication? Very important. Successful projects are based on how effectively you interact with your client and project team. A majority of claims filed against design firms are caused by poor, ineffective communication. Driven by COVID 19 more employees are working remotely, coordinating with team members across a state, the country, and around the world. Interactions are by phone, conference calls, email, Zoom, Face-Time or similar virtual meeting tools. 
Your professional abilities, attitude, and attention to detail are judged by the quality of your writing in emails, proposals, promotional material, training, presentations, and documents. Verbal communication is highly influenced by body language and voice tone – approximately 90%. However non-verbal, our written communication, is judged completely on the written word. If a correspondence is not written well, it can easily be misunderstood. 
Thirty three percent (33%) of A/E claims are driven by ineffective communication and documentation efforts. Continued pressures by clients on projects, and a lack of these skills increases risk and handicaps a project’s success. This is especially true for Principals and project managers (PM's).
Communication tips.
1. Know Your Audience - Your audience is your compass. What you want the recipient to know - the purpose of your writing provides the direction. The style, tone, and vocabulary should be in line with your audience and the reason for the writing. This is not just a matter of appropriateness and having effective content – it’s about having the ability to communicate effectively depending on the audience. 
2. Professional and Formal - There’s a tendency to think of all business communication as formal, which isn’t true. Formal language is fine for proposals, contracts, legal documents, but using like jargon in other communications can obscure the real meaning. At the same time, remember that informal shouldn’t mean unprofessional. Keep the personal comments, and gossip out of business communications. Remember that many businesses are required by law to keep copies of all correspondence related to a project.
NOTE: Don’t email, mail, or circulate anything that you wouldn’t feel comfortable having read into the record in a public trial. 
3. Clear - Your writing should be clear and succinct. Your audience should not have to browse through multiple pages to get to the information they need, or the point you are trying to make. Written information is important for any business - and today the shorter the better. We are inundated with information today. Articles that use to be 2,000 words are now 500.
▪ Stick to the subject matter 
▪ Focus on facts 
▪ Clarity, avoid ambiguity 
▪ Choose short words 
▪ Avoid unnecessary adjectives and adverbs 
4. Serving a Purpose - Business communication should serve a specific purpose. Try not to divert from that purpose. If you’re emailing a colleague with a follow-up about a report due, don’t include three other unrelated requests in the same email. 
5. Formatting - Every piece of writing should be formatted to maximize efficiency. Use headlines, bullet points, numbering and other formatting features (bold, italics, different colors) allowing the reader to skim through your material. However do not overdo it – too many distractions will take the focus off your message. Whether it's an email, report, or a presentation, formatting helps the message become clear. Whenever possible, substitute or augment text with visual aids such as graphics or charts. 
6. Proofreading - As they say - write once, check twice or three times. Your first draft should never be your final written product (it's tempting - I know). This is especially important for a project proposal or report. It is crucial you review and edit it multiple times until you have created a respectable version. Ensure you check for syntactical, grammatical and typographical errors. It is helpful if you can have someone else proofread your written product as well (thanks Jeff). 
It seems like a lot of work, but there are many benefits from following these tips. People will be more likely to understand the message you want to convey. Your professional abilities, attitude, and attention to detail are judged by the quality of your communications. These are all very important points to remember before pressing the “Send” button.
You are welcome to forward this newsletter to others who may be interested. 
NOTICE: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal or professional advice. Please consult with a legal or professional in your area for advice regarding your firms individuals circumstances. 
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