Project Practitioners > Communicating for Project Success

Communicating for Project Success

By Jerry Perone

I've been out for a while, had my knee replaced, been working on projects new and old, and I'm finally back on my feet. Thanks for stopping by for a read.

In my morning status meeting today, I listened to a manager provide an update with five of my colleagues, while four phones vibrated around the conference table. My own two phones buzzed in my pocket. That's six phones channeling email, digital conversations with project information - the symphony of reminders of meetings to come. As the day proceeded, I had four meetings over 6 hours before settling down to my computer to move on a couple deliverables. A meeting online, a conference call, one face-to-face with a client, and the last was an interview with a new administrative assistant working toward a degree in Communications. I asked him why he chose Communications?

"In some way or another, communications touches every aspect of work. Every project I approach requires that I communicate. It's a useful tool and to do it respectfully is more difficult than I ever imagined. It requires thought and consideration of others."

A stellar answer, I thought. It made me reflect on all those phones in the morning meeting and the accuracy of his statement. My days are frequently filled with communication–online, face-to-face, and over the phone. These days, web meetings are becoming more commonplace as well.

For this week's blog, I wanted to spend time discussing how I keep my project communication in line. During the project lifecycle, risk goes up when communication goes down or is poor. In fact, poor communication may increase risk even more than when there is no communication. Clear, concise communication is the key that unlocks the door to project completion.

Next, it's important that we as project managers think about the media we're using to transmit our messages. Each media sends different messages to our audiences. For example, if I am going to address stakeholders about key deliverables, I am going to make sure I do this in person. Likewise, if I'm going to hold an interview, it will be face to face. Again, if I plan on giving delicate direction about a course of action that needs to be taken to ensure project success, I will try my hardest to make this a face-to-face. This allows appropriate time for questions, explanation, and for the message recipient to see my expressions and physical behavior. I don't want my team to think or misinterpret feelings or emotions simply because they can't see me.

Usually, I will conduct regular meetings during the life of projects, including many gate control review meetings, on the web or via conference calls. Often, I found that there is some level of document sharing that needs to occur, and the web helps with this. Remote internet meetings with document sharing capabilities are a great way to help me communicate my messages. It's harder to work remotely and complete project tasks if they are irregular with little recurrence. Remote communication becomes easier over time. We learn each other's nuances, how we share information. Long pauses and deep breathes may mean anger to some while they mean relief to others. If frustration is created early on, it may be difficult to communicate important messages and assignments essential to project success. That's what all this boils down to, communicating for project success.

It is important to remember that project communication is difficult. Although it seems simple, it really isn't. Project team members have different ways of communicating. Thinking about this, being aware that these differences exist, is a first step in respecting the sharp power of communication. Done poorly, the communication can fail. If respected and used wisely, communication can ensure project completion and success.

If communication creates too many challenges for me or any of my team members, I'm willing to seek training for either the team or myself. I found in one case that taking communication classes together was the simple venue we needed to feel closer as a group and thus able to communicate better. Another useful tool: simply have a meeting together–a team building session–face-to-face not computer-to-computer. Sometimes the open door to a collaborative conference room is all we need to open the door to communicating for project success.

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