By Kristi Samber, PMP, Project Manager
Effective communication throughout the life of a project is not always as easy as it sounds. It does not mean sending more emails to more people, capturing every detail and delivering it to all project stakeholders, and it especially does not have to mean meetings.
In a Project Management role, you must facilitate accurate exchanges of information to your project sponsors and all project stakeholders. Communication is the glue that keeps the project together throughout the entire project life-cycle. Effective communication is required right from the planning stage of the project where communication is key in gathering requirements and negotiating budgets. In the initiation phase of the project, you are building your team and establishing expectations. This is the most critical during project execution, where you are communicating status and issues and collaborating on issue resolution. Finally, during project closure, it is imperative that you communicate the lessons learned so that others can benefit from the knowledge gained during your project, as well as the overall success of the project to your project sponsors. In fact, I would go so far as to say that about 80% of your time managing projects should be focused on communication.
Know Your Audience!
Your methods of communication vary by who your audience is, as well as the content of the information you’re delivering. There are both passive and active means of communication. Emails, webcasts, websites, even this blog are all examples of passive means of communication. Those who you are communicating with can review the information on their own time. Examples of active means of communication include face to face meetings, conference calls and telephone calls – where you have an active audience. Throughout a project life-cycle, both active and passive means of communication should be utilized. Be sure to consider your audience. A formal presentation in a conference room may be the right medium for communicating the achievement of major project milestones to the executives within your organization. Whereas a conference call may be the correct medium to collaborate on issue resolution or to bring new resources up to speed. There is no one method that is right for all audiences or all information that is to be delivered.
I believe that communication style is a key element to successful communication and extremely undervalued. We all have our own communication style that to some extent is part of our personality. For those of you who have done a DISC Assessment, this may sound familiar. My communication style has served me well in my career. With my innate communication style, for instance, I am more likely to communicate the big picture than focus on detail. But this does not mean that it’s ALWAYS effective. When I am going to communicate information with someone, I think about their motivations, their goals, and their personality. If I am delivering a message to a highly analytical person, who only wants the facts and understands the impact of what is being delivered, then I am going to flex to their style to facilitate the most effective communication.
- Meetings should be short with a clear agenda and objectives
- Be timely in your communication – don’t wait on delivering an important message or in distributing action items. Confront issues HEAD ON. Don’t delay delivering a hard message – it just makes it worse.
- Don’t information overload – nobody is going to read an overly verbose email. Target your message and tailor to the key information that you are trying to relay.
- Elicit feedback and follow up if you are not getting the confirmation or answers that you need–don’t assume that just because you sent it they will read it.
- LISTEN and be present. It is your job to make sure that you are capturing the stakeholder’s needs, that you are understanding their motivators and concerns, and that you are distributing the information accordingly.
What strategies do you use to manage projects?
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