Clear Communication is Critical

Categories: Management Tips

I always maintain that communication is Job One for the project manager. If the PM can't learn to communicate efficiently and effectively then he has no business serving in the PM role.

It's the most fundamental skill he has to bring to the table and everything else he does - all other roles he plays - depends on good communication.  It's not a skill that you can 'fake it till you make it' on.  You either have it or you don't and if you don't, them you need to go do something else.

What that sermon out of the way, let's focus on the topic for this discussion.  And that is - clear communication is critical to the success of the project. And I don't mean just between the project manager and delivery team...or the project manager and customer...or the project manager and all stakeholders. I mean with everyone, everywhere, and all the time.

On the projects that we manage, there are too many instances of indecision or confusion already without more being invited through communication that is less than clear or that could be misinterpreted.  There are too many assumptions that are already being made and there are too many opportunities for us - as project managers – to leave someone out, give too much information (over communicate) and thus confuse the real meaning, and to just assume others know a particular piece of information and not pass it along.  All of these can result in a breakdown somewhere and a potential failure on a task, a phase, a deliverable or even the project as a whole.

In order to ensure that our communication is frequent, timely, complete, efficient and effective, we need to practice it, plan for it, and know that we are responsible for it and accountable for it on every project we manage.  To that end, we need to practice these things on every project we manage (they can be scaled to fit the size of the project, but they still need to happen on each project, in my opinion)….

Discuss how communication will happen during project kickoff

Use the project kickoff session with the customer to set communication expectations.  Discuss it openly with the client – understand what their concerns might be and what they believe their need for communication and meetings will be on the project.  At the very least, propose weekly meetings with the customer where you will be reviewing the latest project schedule, the status report, and any risks/issues lists.

Create a communication plan

It may not need to be very detailed or very big, but do document how, when with whom communication will happen on the project.  This will be the go-to location for key stakeholder contact information as well as the schedule of regular project meetings and how ad-hoc communication should happen.

Always conduct regular customer and team meetings

Without fail, conduct weekly project status meetings with your team, customer and other key stakeholders (as needed).  And, without fail, conduct weekly internal meetings with your project team members.  These meetings should be routine, rarely if ever canceled and should be expected to cover everything relevant to date on the project.  Hold each meeting even if there is little to nothing new to discuss that week – if you start to cancel meetings then your attendance will start to dwindle when you do have the meetings as their importance will have already taken a hit.

Make sure the PM is the central communicator

Like it or not, all key communication needs to come from or at least go through the project manager.  If it doesn’t, there will always be the risk that something important will fall through the cracks.  Leaving judgment of what’s important and what’s not to multiple individuals on a project is a huge mistake.  Have once central voice – and make that the project manager.

Thanks for reading!

By Indrek Kuldkepp