A Communication “Bill of Rights”


I recently had to facilitate an improved service level agreement between two parties in the IT field. The particular project was about to be shelved by the client due to severe scope creep.

I quickly assessed that one of the root causes of the scope creep was caused by the lack of defining interpersonal and organizational communication proccesses before the start of the project.

To help them solve this problem, I got them to draw up a communication ” bill of rights”. These guidelines will now form the basis for future dealings and relationships.

A Bill of Rights is defined as the formal summary of those rights and liberties considered essential to a people or group of people:example – a consumer bill of rights.

In this instance it was useful to develop such a communication bill of rights to govern the communication processes between the client and the supplier.

This is what the group decided upon:

  1. Agree on a glossary of terms. Always check for understanding.
  2. Communicate without an element of commercial interest at first.
  3. Any form of communication that impact in terms of time; scope or money must be formalised.
  4. Be specific. Relate this to standards specification.
  5. Listen! Listen! Listen!
  6. Always give feedback – Respond appropriately i.e. If you receive an e-mail with an idea, at least acknowledge receipt.
  7. Proper communication upfront at the start of a new project or phase with the whole team is essential.
  8. Establish channels of communication at the beginning of each new project.
  9. Communicate the Bill of rights – structure, purpose and method upfront.
  10. Separate personal issues from professional issues

You may find this technique useful the next time there is inter-departmental or client conflict. Facilitators often use it another form, such as establishing ground rules for a meeting.