Communicating Effectively Is the Key to Project Success

In the Project Management Institute’s 2013 Pulse of the Profession report, effective communications across all stakeholders in the project was identified as the most crucial factor for success in project management. This is because effective communication results in more successful projects and, thus, in organisations as high performers. Indeed, the report also revealed that two in five projects will not meet their original purpose with one-half (i.e., one in two) of these unsuccessful projects the result of ineffective communications, among other factors.

Communication When Done Effectively Results In

The most successful project managers subscribe to the 20/80 rule. This means spending 20% of your time on transactional activities necessary for effective and efficient project control while 80% of your time will be spent on transformational activities related to leadership of the project – and communication is the most important of all transformational activities.

Think about it: Effective leadership goes hand in hand with effective leadership. But communication goes beyond talking to the troops and leading them to the goal, far from it.

Successful project managers know that effective communication means being there for everyone at the right time, in the right place, and with the right information including inspiration, as well as understanding the real challenges, issues and goals of the team and stakeholders. Being actively engaged with your team members, sponsors and stakeholders is a must to deliver on the project deliverables because everybody can contribute to the project’s advancement.

Ultimately, effective communication contributes to the achievement of a results-effective, cost-efficient and client-responsive accomplishment. While there may be other factors, keep in mind that communication underlines all your efforts as a project manager from the formulation of the project plan to the evaluation of its results,

Challenges from Several Sides

And because there are many people involved in project management, project managers will encounter communication challenges from several sides. Each sector has its own unique set of issues and solutions because of the differences in their needs and wants where the project is concerned but all sectors can be handled with effective communication skills, such as the ability to listen and listen well beyond the usual complaints.

Stakeholders

The project stakeholders usually include the client itself (e.g., the organisation that initiated the project) as well as entities in the public and private sectors including government regulatory bodies, consumer groups, and corporations. With so many stakeholders in place, project managers can have a challenging time balancing all of their needs and wants for various types of information about the project. The standard challenges of communication are compounded by the geographical distance, cultural differences, and financial investments of these stakeholders.

Team members

With the project team consisting of a diverse set of people with different backgrounds in education, training and experience, many of whom may not have worked with each other before the project at hand, the project manager’s communication challenges increase. As a project manager, you have to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each team member, harness these traits for the good of the team and its project, and inspire them toward a shared purpose.

And then there is the challenges posed by constant change surrounding the project, such as the environment, economy and politics, all of which can have an impact on the project’s original goal, action plan, and measurable results, among others. Project managers must consider these external factors and then communicate their impact to the stakeholders and team members so that appropriate actions can be made.

Communication Issues Ate Every Phase

Most, if not all, project managers will encounter communication issues in most phases of the project.
  • Goal setting. This is the part where the vision for the project will be formulated and communicated to team members and stakeholders.
  • Progress report. This is where the stakeholders are informed about the project’s progress (i.e., where the project is in relation to where it should be).
  • Presentation. This is the phase where the project’s accomplishments are reported to stakeholders.

Keep in mind that, in all phases, the project manager should adopt the principles and practices of effective communication. Otherwise, all the other phases will be affected, such as when the vision has not been communicated well to the team members, thus, resulting in half-baked project results.

Communication Plan Is a Must

With that being said, project managers should have a communication plan in place even before project implementation starts. A communication plan is essentially a form of standardized communication, which forms the foundation upon which effective (i.e., information provided in the right time, format, audience and impact) and efficient (i.e., providing only the necessary information) communication is provided by the project manager to the team members and stakeholders.

The best communication plan should be customized to the needs of the project and, thus, should address the following issues

  • The type of communication required, such as team meetings, management meetings and reports, and project reports
  • The persons to whom the information will be provided (e.g., stakeholders)
  • The frequency of communication including the expected dates of submission based on timelines
  • The types of information that should be communicated

While a communication plan does not guarantee effective and efficient communication since the whole matter largely rests in the hands of the project manager, it is an important contributory factor for overall project success. Think of it as the guiding plan with which everybody on the team can keep in mind when performing the tasks assigned to them.

Project managers also have the benefit of a comprehensive complement of tools for a customised communication approach. These tools include:

  • Stakeholder analysis, a tool that uses a power/interest grid to predict the responses of stakeholders and team members in various situations;
  • Ishikawa Diagram, or fish bone diagram, where each bone has a problem to be solved and then broken down until its causes are identified; and
  • RACI chart, which ensures that there is at least one person responsible for each category.

In conclusion, effective and efficient communication can be achieved by the adoption of a solid communication plan and the use of a complement of Synquis software but project managers are also well-advised to become active listeners.