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Improving Your Effectiveness in Project Communication

Lack of effective communication is the second cause of project failure. Around 20% of projects that fail are due to poor communication.

A Project Manager should spend 90% of the time communicating. Good communication greatly increases the chances of project success, but at the same time it’s the main cause of the problems that the Project Manager will face throughout the project life cycle.

Successful Project Managers manage communication effectively. Knowing what to communicate and when to communicate it is crucial. The time spent by the Project Manager planning communication will prevent the scope creep. In order to communicate properly, the Project Manager should be familiar with the organization’s environment, its culture, standards and procedures; using historical information and lessons learned when needed.

Here are 7 tips that can help PMs to develop effective communication skills:

1.     Active listening

Actively listening to the stakeholders and the team members while giving feedback is essential. Taking time to listen, trying to understand people, their personality and train of thought is a must. Dedicate extra time to listen to a team member, especially when in need for help can make him or her feel more secure and increase the sense of empowerment during the decision-making time. What might seem important to one person is not necessarily as important for another, so a successful PM should have the ability to understand their different perceptions, styles and personalities, as a basis to be able to influence them, especially in multicultural teams. Each person requires a different time dedication and attention. Listen to what people say before drawing conclusions and making decisions.

2.     Tailor messages to the recipient

Messages shall be adapted to the intended recipient. Not all communications should be directed in the same manner. After actively listening a PM can better understand how people think in order to convey the message to be delivered. This will also help to build and strengthen relationships and motivate team members. Instead of communicating to everyone in the same way, communication should according to their personalities, skills, performance, goals, motivation and potential, ensuring that the recipient has received and understood the message properly, thus preventing incorrect assumptions that may negatively impact on the project.

If communication is reinforced with examples and stories, you may grasp people’s attention and interest causing emotions to show in recipients, especially in people who speak a different language.

3.     Convey messages clearly

A bad leader fails to explain and communicate what the quality criteria of the activity in hand, what the elements for performance measurements are, will hide information and does not feel responsible for the outcome.

If the team members do not know and understand the team leader’s expectations, it can affect the performance of the team in a very negative way.

A successful Project Manager should communicate clearly and effectively guide the team on the right path to achieving the desired goals. Then, he should ensure the team has properly received and understood the messages and guidelines, and plan their work according to those guidelines. With unclear guidelines, a team member could spend too much time working on activities that might not even be a priority and could have been avoided.

4.     Manage meetings effectively

In general, it is recommended to arrange a meeting when decisions must be made and/or it is required to assign and distribute tasks among the group of people involved with a common purpose based on the information they can share.

Face to face meetings are often more effective than virtual ones. If such meetings are focused on achieving the desired results throughout the meeting, instead of directing them to the discussion of activities, they will yield better results.

It is recommended to organize more frequent meetings if they can only be with virtual teams and especially if we want to get the involvement of certain key stakeholders whose feedback is necessary for the successful development of the project and there is no other way to achieve this with the desired frequency.

Here are some common rules for managing meetings effectively:

  • Define a clear purpose for the meeting.
  • Key points to achieve the objectives.
  • Stick to the agenda.
  • Bring the right attendees.
  • Next steps: to assign tasks with deliverables and dates to attendees according to the result of the issues discussed and agreements reached during the meeting.
  • Document and publish the Minutes of Meeting: this will be especially important in case of changes in stakeholders.

5.     Choosing  the appropriate media

It is important at any time to properly choose whether the communication should be verbal or written, formal or informal, face to face or by email, etc.

Written communication helps the correct reception and interpretation of the message. Written communication is especially significant in dealing with problems and difficult situations. For example, the Project Manager can validate (verbal) the information with the stakeholder prior to requesting their approval (formal written), in order to facilitate the subsequent approval and avoid assumptions or misunderstandings.

6.     Increase the teams´ knowledge

Sharing with the team about general project issues quite often will give them a result oriented, global overview that facilitates team members´ ownership while increasing their level of involvement. Taking this action can prevent team members from being focused on their daily activities without know the global overview that may have negative consequences on the team’s performance and the achievement of objectives. People need communication, lack of communication creates uncertainty, mistrust, rumors, and lack of motivation.

As part of the communication plan, the Project Manager should provide the team members the link between the information received, the work that they do, the way they execute it, and the organizations needs.

Team members must also contribute to the documentation of lessons learned, that have to be used as feedback during the lifetime of the project, also helping to improve its efficiency and effectiveness.

7.     Keep stakeholders engaged and informed

One of the main factors that contribute to project success is to get the stakeholder engagement. A PM’s challenge is to influence them. This also helps to improve their satisfaction through a positive, user-oriented, and transparent way of communication that builds trust.

Communicating and reporting in advance encourages users to adopt a better attitude for possible upcoming incidents and problems that might arise. Keep always stakeholders informed of any relevant issue, need or recommendation; and periodically about the status and progress of the project.

Small hallway conversations, i.e.: while having a coffee will help to improve relations and resolve issues subsequently treated more quickly.

When planning on how to communicate, the Project Manager has to take time to identify the right communication and information needed for the stakeholders, defining a relationship model, explaining who will receive what information, and from whom, at what time, how often, etc., in order to ensure that the correct people will receive the right information at the right time.

Key stakeholders should be all identified at the early stage of a project, must be involved and aligned with the project approach. The influence of stakeholders is higher at the beginning of a project and decreases during the remainder of such. Not involving stakeholders and paying attention to their requests from the very beginning can and usually results in having a negative impact on the project budget, therefore increasing its costs.

What is your best advice for Improving your effectiveness in project communication? Please, share your comments.

 

Author: David Gómez Reinado (All Rights Reserved by the author)

Source: Original text, based upon first hand knowledge and the following bibliography:

Mark Fritz (2014). Lead & Influence (http://eu.wiley.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-111873288X.html)