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"Communication: the key to success project management" by Rogerta Leka, a student of WUC of Tirana

Updated: Oct 30


"The pilot course offered at Wisdom University College was very interesting for me as a student of Master of Science in Finance and what I found interesting was the interconnection between the culture and the business world. I personally think that this course helps me shape my point of views in regards to the communication in business and this is the reason I worked on a course task assigned to us as part of the course requirements".


COMMUNICATION THE KEY TO SUCCESSFUL PROJECT MANAGEMENT

In all elements of work life the most common complaint about an organization is ‘lack of communication’. A successful project manager must be a great communicator!  Project management communication is a skill that is never perfected, can always be improved and is pivotal in being able to initiate and mobilize a project effectively. The PMI (Project Management Institute) suggests a project manager should spend 90 percent of their time communicating!


Communications Plan A communications plan is vital. Before the project begins, careful thought needs to be given to communication and the processes it will involve. The plan should give details of the type of communication that will take place during the project — who will receive such communications and in what format and where the information will then be stored. Examples are face-to-face meetings, telephone calls, email, video conferencing, presentations and the intranet and so on. The methods should be varied to ensure that the message reaches its intended audience. A schedule of communication should be formulated to include status reports and project team meetings. Processes for addressing problems and queries also need to be put in place and communicated to all who are involved.

As work begins on the project, face-to-face communication with the project team as a first step enables all members to know who they are working with and to more easily form good working relationships.

The project manager can utilize team-building techniques and possibly suggest communication skills training in order to create a cohesive group of co-workers. She or he can also set ground rules for the project, and close observation of any non-verbal communication, such as body language, will reveal if any member of the team is unclear about objectives, roles or rules. At this stage it is easier to avoid ambiguity and confusion by addressing problems and queries quickly, as well as asking specific pertinent questions of the team as a way of checking understanding. Team members need to be made aware of the communications plan and the schedule. Both documents should be closely adhered to, as deviation will cause confusion and can be to the detriment of the project’s success.


The Project Board needs to be kept informed of progress so that any risks can be assessed or changes taken into account. There should also be regular status reports between the project manager and the client, so that if either side needs to institute changes, the potential impact can be assessed and everyone can be made aware of those changes.


Communication within the team

Communication client- the development team is not the only one that can be inefficient, communication between team members can be, too. A relation between the Project Manager and the team is the most important one- he/she must understand and transfer all information to the whole team. All steps must be clear and everyone must know what is his/her duty. The whole team must be able to visualize the end result in order to work towards the same goal. Regular reporting of the project status is crucial to the success of the project.

Miscommunication can happen between developers and testers and mostly the reason is bad documentation. Testers verify functionality according to specifications and if there’s something omitted or not considered each tester will figure out what he/she thinks is correct. Using scrum technology in communication between developers and testers can solve this problem- each feature is developed and tested right away.

While we’re talking about tools it is great that the team is using project management tools and communicating there but they must be consistent. Using too many tools will cause a problem since one will be documented in Jira and another in Trello for example. This way you won’t have all the information in one place. Also, avoid communicating along the way and not writing it down. It can happen that you solve some issue very fast, didn’t put it down in your Project Management tool (PMT) and lost track of it. Put all information in your PMT, that’s the only way to track everything. If you are working in a small team and with a small number of experts in some field unexpected situations such as sick leave can cause you big issues. When the key developer is ill and can’t work on a project the whole process must stop. For this reason, avoid small teams of developers since they are too dependent on each team member and can’t replace anyone fast.

Project development is a lasting process and you probably don’t work on only one project but on a few at the same time. It will often happen that while working on one other pop up and takes your attention. Good Project Manager must handle these situations and dedicate the same attention to each and every project developers work on.

Project leadership calls for clear communication about goals, responsibility, performance, expectations and feedback.


Successful project management communication is about being there for everyone, being in touch with the real challenges of the project, understanding the real issues within the team, who must deliver the project as well as understanding the issues of the sponsors who the team delivers the project for. Being present, visible and engaged with everyone is important – during good times and challenging times.

Communication is not only about speaking to and hearing from people, it’s about understanding the complete message.


What language to use, how to convey the message with respect to tone, feeling and body language all play an important role in the communication process.  If these are used incorrectly, the result is often a confused message and misunderstanding of the real issues.

So a successful project manager can only maximise the effectiveness of communication within the team by being prepared to lead by example. A big part of leadership is to be present, and be prepared to communicate with all stakeholders at their respective levels. And to consciously Listen! Listen! Listen some more!


Projects often ‘fail’ because we simply fail to clearly articulate the vision and the project’s success criteria. This vision must be successfully communicated to each stakeholder and team member. The whole team should be able to visualise the end result, in order to work towards a common goal.

Regular reporting of the project’s progress and status is crucial to the success of the project. Communicating this to all stakeholders in a clear and precise manner is paramount, so that all understand what the key messages are. Diagrams, charts, graphs and tables should be maximised here. The well known saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”  is no less true than when communicating project progress or status.

Effective and efficient project management communication is delivered by first considering the needs of the audience you are intending to communicate with, put yourself in their shoes and anticipate what they need to understand, and then provide that understanding only. Strong presentation skills are essential for communicating project progress and status. The audience needs to be engaged during these presentations to check that the key messages have been received and understood. Communication methods Given the organisational and geographical diversity of project teams – it is important to consider all methods of communication. Today’s enhanced technology allows us to communicate easily where ever the team members may be. A communication strategy should be conceived at the project planning stages, so key is its influence on the success of the project. Communication methods can either be active or passive.


ACTIVE communication methods being those used to communicate in the here and now, for example the use of:

Face to Face meetings 

Video conference, meeting – one on one, or group

Telephone conference, or voice only web conference

Webinars, becoming increasingly popular for the delivery of presentation based activities

Telephone – good old fashioned call

Stand up presentations in person

PASSIVE communication methods would be those which recipients can adopt in their own time, for example:

Podcast

Web cast

Email 

Intranet bulletin boards

Blogs

Website

Project newsletter – paper based

Table top presentation

Always ensure that a mix of active and passive methods of communication are used to complement each other. This should be considered as part of the overall project management communication strategy.


Listening

Active listening is arguably the biggest factor affecting effective communication. Our body language can demonstrate clearly whether we are actively listening. Eye to eye contact is imperative to active listening. It shows you are genuinely interested and engaged when someone is talking to you.

Effective communication results in all involved in the project understanding what is being communicated. This comes from spending time with the project team, being fully engaged and prepared to listen and understand the feelings which may be the key driver of the communication process. Project managers really need to have many qualities (good communication skills being one of them) to drive the project to become successful.


Conclusion

Every project that we do is based on how effectively we communicate both with clients and within our team. This is often still regarded by management as something that just ‘happens’ as part of regular project management tasks. However, without a well thought out communication strategy and right tools, as well as, detailed information your project will be doomed.


Article written by

Rogerta Leka, a student of Master of Science in Finance at Public University of Economics of Tirana (Albania) for the CSB blog.