Use the Whiteboard!
When working with my colleagues the most useful tool in my communication arsenal (besides my mouth) is my whiteboard. I had originally intended to write this post in reference to working with my Japanese co-workers, but on reflection it is equally applicable to working with fellow Americans.
Whether we are talking about technical work or business processes, it is really helpful to get the ink out and start diagramming things. This is particularly important when we are discussing multiple steps or relationships between multiple entities. In the process of writing the pictures on the board, I can animate the presentation by drawing lines from “a” to “b” and so forth to show how processes flow. Even if we are speaking the same language, the visual and residual components come together to greatly enhance our understanding. By ‘residual’, I mean that the record of our discussion will remain for reference later.
Update: In my new job as a manager at Capitol Media Group, I have my teams conduction all of their technical discussions in front of white boards. Subsequently, we take photos of the diagrams, and upload them to our team Wiki. This has been a Great Success. You should try it too.
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