Project Communications Management
Successful project managers take responsibility for communication. If the project manager doesn’t clearly understand the sponsor, stakeholders, or team members needs and expectations, they have failed to handle these responsibilities. Unfortunately, this failure is common, communication is not sufficiently handled, and it is intimately tied to not taking enough time to invest in building good and understanding relationships and meaningful discussions.
Ninety percent of a project managers job is communicating. The communication responsibilities include identifying the stakeholders, planning what communications will be appropriate, distributing and receiving information, managing stakeholders expectations, and providing performance reporting.
Establish a Communication Focal Point
Establish who will be providing direction and information on your project rather than allowing for the confusion regarding who to go to. During busy projects conflicting information and confusion need to be avoided and one of the keys to success is establishing the project manager as the communication focal point.
In order to be effective in this communication focal point role, the project manager must allocate time in their schedule for both planned and unplanned communications. They need to have methods for proactively reaching out to stakeholders and team members (push) and also encouraging people to come to them as needed (pull).
Do not overwhelm the team with too much information but make it very clear what their priorities are, what they should be working on currently and in the near future, what the status of the overall project is, and where they can come to at any time for all of the information they could possibly want.
Hold GREAT Meetings
|G||Goals for the meeting should be SMART: Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Results-oriented and Timely.(Note about SMART Goals from Kay Wais. SMART goals are very appropriate for meetings but often not the best approach for people’s goals. People’s goals should be H.A.R.D.: heartfelt, animated, required, and difficult.)|
|R||Roles and Rules: roles should be rotated among project team members so that everyone gets an opportunity to show leadership. Ground-rules for discussion should be agreed upon beforehand.|
|E||Expectations should be clearly defined.|
|A||Agendas should be distributed in advance.|
|T||Time is money so be sensitive to the team member’s scheduling needs. Keep it brief; begin and end meetings on time.|
Source: Managing the Project Team, Volume Three, by Vigay K. Verma.
Tips for Project-Related Emails
A large percentage of most project communications today is done via e-mail. And this is a good idea for many reasons, such as the ability to state instructions clearly, precisely, and to broadcast to an entire team at once. However, there are common mistakes that project managers should watch for in their own writing when using this invaluable tool for project communications.
Since e-mail can so easily be misunderstood, it is important to review, re-read, edit and review again any message that you send out regarding project instructions. Below are a few reminders that can keep your e-mail working for you instead of against you.
- Don’t use humor or sarcasm in an e-mail. It doesn’t translate well and it’s more likely to elicit a raised eyebrow rather than a laugh.
- Leave out personal opinions and emotions. Keep to the business topic and deal with it professionally.
- Don’t do anything to fuel the fire of personality conflict. You don’t need to compliment. But never use e-mail to insult or criticize.
- If you’re in a high-stress situation, give yourself time before hitting “send”. Once the e-mail is out there it can never be taken back.
- Think about that “To” list again. Are all the necessary people included and those who don’t care left off?
Many project managers, such as myself, credit our “direct” communication style for many good things. However, I know I have improved my e-mail clarity and relationships by remembering to take the edge off before sending messages. That is often a simple change of wording from “well, they’ve done it again!” to “we’ve seen a pattern that we’d like to have improved”. This morning I changed the instruction to “get it right the first time” to “please review the deliverable for your acceptance prior to forwarding to the team.”
Channels of Communication
This is the formula for calculating communication channels in a project, where N equals the number of people on the project.
The ‘Delphi technique’ is a commonly used tool to secure expert judgment while initiating a project. This is commonly done virtually. This is a three-step process of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. In thesis and antithesis, all present their opinion or views on a given subject, establishing views and opposing views. In synthesis, opposites are brought together to form the new thesis. All participants are then to accept ownership of the new thesis and support it, changing their own views to align with the new thesis. Through a continual process of evolution, Oneness of Mind will supposedly occur.
“Effective communication builds trust, partnership and collaboration and creates synergy in teams.” – Anonymous