Communication core to GIRI training

24 Oct 22

Establishing effective communication techniques such as open questions and back briefing are at the heart of GIRI’s training courses, GTC consultant Chris Klaassen told delegates at GIRI’s autumn members’ meeting. These techniques are applied in different ways across the three courses depending on the audience and the scenarios, but they all focus on ensuring that communication has been properly understood.

Techniques such as asking open questions – questions that do not elicit just a yes or no answer – and employing ‘back briefing’ are central elements, and they should not be confined to in-person interactions, Chris explained. “So much of our communication is done via email, but this usually misses out the back-briefing element. The sender sends the message and the receiver receives it. What should happen next is that the receiver sends their feedback on the message so the sender can let them know if they have understood it correctly.”

Chris introduced GIRI’s ‘build it in your brain’ technique, which involves analysing the information received and attempting to visualise how to complete a task before starting it. “If you can’t do that, it is likely you will make an error.” And if you can’t visualise it, press pause to avoid error – another key GIRI technique. Pause, think, replan, start again.

GIRI also offers a course that introduces these techniques in the context of interfaces, which is where many errors occur in construction projects. “We are very good at standard component construction. The errors occur when those components combine with something else,” said Chris. 

The first thing the training addresses is how to recognise an interface – the point at which two or more systems, subjects, or organisations meet and interact. “There is a lot of focus on physical interfaces and we often forget time interfaces – the programme or schedule the work must fit into – and the people involved.” 

After an interface has been identified, it should be assessed. If it isn’t well-managed – for example, services and steelwork are not shown on the same drawing or it isn’t clear who is responsible for the overall system – press pause to avoid error. 

“Once you have assessed the interface, communicate and review using open questions and back briefing,” said Chris. “It all rests on how you communicate. You need to ask the right questions of the people on the frontline.”

GIRI’s interfaces training includes exercises designed to help delegates identify, assess and manage these critical elements, and choose the appropriate method of management depending on the risk. “Sometimes these need a formal management approach, other times informal styles work better,” suggested Chris.

Finally, Chris outlined how communication techniques differ in the leadership course, including the use of ‘kata’ questions for managers when talking to staff. Instead of the conventional “Any problems?” ask “Is there anything that will prevent you achieving your target?” These open questions, targeted to their audience, are designed to elicit real feedback and insight about the project or the business that can then be acted on if necessary.

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