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business communication

How “Common Sense” Derails Group Projects, and Ultimately, Your Business Success

It takes a team effort to redesign a website successfully with a reliance on communication, collaboration, and coordination – three essentials that can’t be compromised – but are when “common sense” is infused into the mix.  

While the notion of “common sense” is not normally associated with derailing factors to a successful project, it could be a silent killer.  Recall the times you thought or heard others say “That fact is ‘common sense’, I don’t have to explain it to them.” The problem with the use of common sense in project settings is that it is erroneously ASSUMED to be based on implicit facts known by all mankind. As a result, what is thought of as common sense is also thought of as true, which is false.  Common sense is personal, contextual, based on common experiences and points of view.  Until people explicitly communicate their perspective to each other do they realize the root of their miscommunication and misunderstanding. “Didn’t you know that….”  “I thought that…” “I never thought of it that way…”  

Internal and External Derailments from “Common Sense” business communication

When group projects built on a foundation of “common sense” are inaccurate, incomplete, or misaligned, teams experience internal problems, like missing project deadlines, rework, added expense, and a poor-performing website. The reality is, when common sense is used in place of communication, it inhibits shared understanding.

If “common sense” for some is to think that what is communicated verbally or in writing one time is heard/seen exactly as stated then internalized forever, havoc will ensue if the rest of the team does not function this way. While this extreme example of common sense is not ubiquitous, it does exist in the minds of many.  The best way to avoid misunderstandings is to have regular touch-point meetings about the project and verify all items as they are completed by the group – especially those that are mission-critical to the project’s success

As another example, your website could be developed by a team that is made up of both internal staff and external vendors. You have an SEO team, a Website Development team, Copywriters, and a Project Manager involved in the process. The Development team works with the Project Manager to develop the website’s navigation based on your business goals and audience, while the Copywriters work on the text for the website pages. In the urgency to meet deadlines, the SEO team is congruently working on the site map, relative landing pages, and optimization. While it may be common sense for some to think that if each component works independently it should also work collectively, this could be the case, but it should not be treated as “a given”. This common sense could have been based on one person’s past experience but the opposite of another working together with different past experiences and future expectations.

Although common sense can’t really be eradicated, it can be identified and dealt with accordingly. The key is realizing common sense is an inhibitor to empathy and the antagonist to meaningful group interactions.

To keep your group projects safe from common sense snafus, keep these tips in mind:

  • Funnel all project communications through one source – in this case, a Project Manager.
    • For each stage or milestone, be sure they round-up with the entire group in writing and filtering questions shortly thereafter to keep the process moving.
  • Set specific project goals, details, and strategy in writing at the outset of the work and review the mission-critical factors to ensure there are no misunderstandings.
    • This includes target market research, strategic detail, goals, and measurable key performance indicators for the resulting product, responsibilities, and timelines.
  • Be sure all deciding members of your staff and teams are involved in the project from the beginning, so expectations and strategies are aligned to avoid misinterpretations and resulting delays. And, so that everyone’s frame of reference or context of the situation is the same from the outset.

To avoid working in the vacuum of “common sense”, it all comes down to understanding the how’s of communication among team members, and taking the time to get all involved and on the planned path. Avoid the pitfalls of common sense with the tips above to ensure the highest quality outcomes for your group projects.