Project communications – MUCH more effort needed

One area that always seems to raise its head in any company we work in is communications. It really gets people’s emotions going. In project management training course participants openly speak about how poor communications are within their company projects – something of an irony?

Figures collected by my company Project Agency show that 69% of people questioned feel that project management communications are poor or very poor. Horrendous figures!

When questioned, project managers who attend our training g courses point out that communications is not a high enough priority. The results however of this practice show themselves with stakeholders becoming gatekeepers (with the gate firmly closed); project team members making false assumptions and objectives being harder, much harder to deliver.

From discussions it appears that:

• there is too much emphasis on the use of email – ironically, some of those on our courses often receive 80 -90 emails a day and many go un-read

• project timetables are really tight and those managing the project comment that they ‘do not have time to develop a communications plan let alone implement one’

• the need to communicate effectively in change projects is not as appreciated as it should be by team members and senior managers -thereby putting little emphasis on it

• few people have had solid experience or training in ‘communications’

I have suggested many times that the project team should include a communications expert. Often, there are in-house communications experts who can provide valuable skills and in some cases, I have suggested buying in this service.

So, just how good are you at communicating? How do you know? Why not spend some time reflecting with your project team on the way you communicate and how effective you are in this area and the impact your communications have on your project(s).

We all talk about the need for effective project communications; now is the time to deliver on this.

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw

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4 Responses to Project communications – MUCH more effort needed

  1. Lindsay says:

    And here was me thinking that along with leadership, communication was the strongest skill you would look for in a Project Manager

    Interesting post Ron

  2. The point about emphasis on email is an interesting one. Young PM’s are encouraged to “get it in writing” which is certainly good advice. However I think this advice makes them trigger happy on email and depend on it as their only means of communication. Dependence on email means that we forgo other important methods of communication, like status update meetings and spending quality face to face time with the team. Without face to face communication, relationships amongst teams are weak which creates an environment which naturally breeds poor communication.

  3. Judy Burgess says:

    Ron – Excellent article! When I had the audacity to start leading IT Projects (without a Computer Science degree!), I ran into a lot of resistance at first with the amount of communication I required. As the project progressed, and I traveled to different sites and met the IT people face-to-face, that changed. (This corroborates Warwick’s point about the importance of face-to-face meetings above.) That level of communication was a lot of work, but it paid off. During phone calls, I was at my desk typing notes. These became minutes, and were emailed out or posted on the Team SharePoint site after each meeting. If someone had a change, they sent that to me and the minutes were updated. That way, we had the benefit of having a conference call meeting and we had everything in writing. People are willing to work harder to help their friends succeed… so if you have a Team that becomes a group of friends, things go much more smoothly!

  4. Ron says:

    Thanks for your comments:

    Lindsay, you are of course correct. I would certainly be looking at both leadership and communication skills in any project manager I wanted to appoint

    Warwick, part of the issue is that we are trained in many different areas however formal interpersonal skills training is sadly lacking. How we ask questions, listening, challenging etc are included here. I remember from my early days as a management trainer attending such training and I gained so much.

    Judy, many thanks for your excellent post. If only more people acted as you so!

    Thanks for the contributions.

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