According to EA, Ubisoft and Activision veteran Heather Chandler, most developers report that communication on their teams is the area that needs the most improvement. Just about every problem, it seems, can be attributed to bad communication -- and, as Chandler points out
in her latest 'Production Values' column, most (if not all) of a game producer's work revolves around communicating the project's needs to various people throughout the company.
So avoiding pitfalls and improving communication across a variety of areas can create a huge improvement, but what constitutes "bad" communication? Chandler elucidates on the common "too busy" excuse as one culprit:
"How often have you heard someone say, 'I have an open door policy, stop by anytime to talk,' but every time you go by his or her office, no one is ever there? As you get more anxious about talking to this person, you find yourself walking by the empty office every chance you get -- you even invent errands so you have more opportunities to catch this person before the end of the day.
How about when you finally get some face to face time with your boss in his office, and he is so busy answering emails, screening phone calls, or instant messaging, that he is not even listening to what you are saying? By the time you leave his office, you are convinced it was a waste of time, as he probably didn't hear anything you said.
According to Chandler, just anticipating this type of challenge ahead of time is a good start. But there are many types of bad communication, and many different solutions. Chandler explains why having specific and defined points of communication is key:
"Chain of command is important for a good communication pipeline. People feel comfortable if they know who they should go to in order to escalate a problem or request. It can be a great source of frustration if someone has an issue and doesn't know who to discuss it with, or they can't get access to this person.
On all of my projects, I make it very clear who to talk to about any problem. For example, if one of the leads had an issue with something I'm doing, I let them know at the beginning of the project (before there are any issues) they should go to my boss to discuss it. Members of the team shouldn't feel they have to confront someone directly about a problem, specifically if it is a sensitive personnel issue; they need to know that a producer or lead will take point on getting the issue solved with the appropriate people.
You can now read the full Gamasutra feature
, which contains more of Chandler's in-depth advice on recognizing communication roadblocks and addressing them effectively (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).