To many project managers today, communication is regarded as something that ‘just happens’ in projects. It is not actively planned for. However, good communication is central to the success of any project.
What Poor Communication is Costing You
The Project Management Institute (PMI) carried out research on the importance of good communication to project success. In their report, ‘Pulse of the Profession In-Depth Report: The High Cost of Low Performance: The Essential Role of Communications 2013’, they discovered that ineffective communication results in the loss of millions of dollars from poorly executed projects. The report from the Project Management Institute showed that companies risked losing at least $135 million for every $1 billion they invested in a project. Of this $135 million, $75 million (or 56%) is lost as a result of poor communication. Companies are losing more than half of their project budget as a result of ineffective communication.
CompTIA carried out a study on the role of communication in IT projects specifically. They found that 28% of their respondents blamed poor communication for project failure.
Why Effective Communication is Important
In its report on the importance of communication, the PMI suggests that project managers should spend 90% of their time on communication for the success of the project. Sound like too much? Not really, especially when you consider the benefits of effective communication on a project. Below are some of those benefits:
- Increased efficiency
When a team is communicating efficiently, time lost to misinterpretation is cut down to a minimum. When messages are delivered to team members poorly due to a breakdown in communication, it is likely to result in the wrong action being taken. When the wrong action is taken, the work on the project has to stop so that the problem can be corrected before moving forward. If the work isn’t stopped early, then a lot of rework will be required to correct the problem.
Effective communication ensures that the team works efficiently taking the right actions to get the project completed on time and within budget.
- Increased input from the team
Effective communication from the project manager fosters open communication among team members. The members of the team feel confident and encouraged when they know that their opinions will be heard and considered. This encourages increased input from the team. The team is therefore better able to solve problems with the resources available to them. It also encourages innovation.
- Allows for greater adaptability
In a world that is ever changing it is important for the team to be able to adapt to changes as need arises and the marketplace changes. Keeping the doors of communication open ensures that information is shared efficiently. This ensures that the team can adapt to changes more readily.
- Fosters better understanding
Any team is made up of different people from a wide variety of backgrounds. These people often have varying personalities. It can be difficult getting people to work together especially if communication is inefficient. With effective communication, cultural diversity can become an asset instead of being a hindrance. Good communication fosters understanding and facilitates progress within the team.
There are different communication methods available to project managers today. The method you choose for communicating with your team will depend on the geographical diversity of the team as well as what works best for you.
It is important to develop a communication strategy when planning the project. This is vital to the success of the project. The strategy should include both passive and active communication methods.
Active communication methods are useful for disseminating urgent information, clarifying points and making decisions as a team. They involve immediate communication. Examples include:
- Face to face meetings
- Telephone, voice or web conferencing
- Video conferencing
Passive communication allows team members to act on the information at their own time. Examples of passive methods of communication include:
- Web and pod casts
- Blogs and websites
- Bulletin boards on the intranet
Skills for Effective Communication
Project managers must develop communication skills to be effective. Technical skills are not adequate for the success of a project. Project managers need to be able to communicate to the team and the stakeholders effectively. They need to be able to keep the team informed about the project requirements and keep the clients up to date with the progress of the project.
- Clear delivery of instructions
The project manager is responsible for communicating instructions to the members of the team. They should be able to provide instructions that the team can understand and take the right actions. You should therefore develop your listening skills in order to truly understand the requirements set by the client. You also need to ask questions to ensure in depth understanding of the project.
Clear delivery of instructions will ensure that the team understands the goals of the project.
- Inspire trust
Nobody takes orders or advice from someone they don’t respect or trust. It is therefore important to inspire trust in your team members. You can do this through honest feedback and giving them clear directions. When your team members trust you, they’ll be loyal to you. They’ll be more willing to follow your instructions and act on constructive criticism.
Be sure to inspire trust in your clients as well. Being dishonest about the progress of a project will only result in a communication breakdown between you and your client. This will be detrimental for the project.
- Encourage teamwork
The work produced by the team is a sum of individual effort of each team member as well as work done in collaboration. Effective collaboration can be challenging especially since teams often consist of varying personalities. As a project manager, you need to know how to get your team to collaborate. This means getting varying personalities to work together.
The most effective teams are made up of varying personalities that are able to complement each other. A diverse team allows you to leverage different strengths for the benefit of the team. However, getting them to work together can be challenging.
Project managers in this instance take on the role of psychologists and counselors. You need to listen and probe your team members to find out where problems exist and settle disputes when they arise. You also need to learn how to motivate your team members. Applying an individualized approach to your team members will help you ensure that each team member feels involved and appreciated.
- Influence project outcomes
You need to develop the skill to influence the outcomes of the project. This means being able to push your team to complete tasks on time for example or convincing your client to provide additional funding when needed. Being able to influence your team and stakeholders allows you to ensure that the project is completed on schedule within a reasonable budget.
Image: Delwin Steven Campbell