As you begin your first, or your hundredth project, you must focus on communication within your project. This one aspect of project management negatively or positively impacts every single projects that you undertake. It is often easy to get hung-up on methodologies and templates when executing a project, but you need to spend just as much, if not more, time and energy focusing on your communication. Communication can, and should, take up the majority of your time as a project manager. I am not proposing you talk for the sake of talking, but communication needs to be your focus during your project.
Now I hope that this sounds like a silly question to all of you. But it can benefit all of us to think about why we communicate. The main reasons to communicate are:
- To gather information
- To disseminate information
- To improve relationships
We will now look at how these three reasons impact your communication with the various project stakeholders.
Communication with your team
Communication with your team is of vital importance. It can help define project success or failure. And the best part about it…it can be mastered by everyone. Specialized training is not required. An advanced degree is not required. All that is required is the desire to improve. We are now going to look at how the three main goals of communication relate to project team communication
To gather information – the project manager cannot be everywhere at all times. Nor can they inherently know/understand everything. That is why you must lean on your team for information. They are the people doing the work and they know what is really happening. Take the time to ask questions of the team on how the work is progressing. Also, ask the team if there is anything they need from you to make their jobs easier. Getting more information from your team allows you to make more educated decisions….it allows you to make better decisions. You must communicate regularly with your team. The more the merrier!
To disseminate information – as the project manager, you have more general knowledge surrounding the project than any other team member. This places you in a position of power, but at the same time it puts your project in a position of weakness. Do your best to keep all team members informed about the project and any outside forces at work. Some may argue that providing too much information to your team can overwhelm them, but I feel that too much information is much less dangerous than too little.
To improve relationships – Think about your friends. Are they the people you share the most with, or are they the people you share the least with. Now think about how you became friends. Did you become friends by keeping to yourself and hiding information about yourself? Or did you reveal what made you tick and this led to some discovery of mutual preferences/hobbies? By sharing information with your team, you are showing that you care about them and that you want them to know about you as a person. This will help the team because people work harder for people they have a true relationship with.
Communication with clients
Along with communicating with your team, communicating with your clients (internal or external) is of utmost importance. The people paying for the project have a right to know what is going on with your project. You have an obligation to inform them about the project and you have an obligation to gather their views on the project.
To gather information – In order to serve your team well, you need to know what is expected of you all. Gathering information from the client lets you know what you have to do and what you do not need to focus on. Also, you can gauge their opinion on the progress of the project.
To disseminate information – you need to formally and informally provide your client with information about how the project is progressing. Some of this communication will be formal (update meetings, status reports, etc.) but the majority will be informal. This involves phone calls, impromptu meetings, and emails. You need to be candid with the client at all times. Do not hesitate to share great news with your client. Also, do not hesitate to share bad news. The client obviously does not want to hear bad news, but they would rather hear if from you than to be blind-sided by it later.
To improve relationships – When you communicate with the client, you are increasing their confidence in you as a project manager and as a person. Let them see how passionate you are about the project and they are going to treasure your involvement. Also, let them know that you truly are committed to their satisfaction.
No project has ever been successful when the project manager doesn’t know what the client wants. Also, no project has been successful when the project manager does not talk to project team members and thus does not know how the project is progressing. Focus a lot of your energy on talking with your team and the client. Remember however, that no project is successful when the communication is not a dialog. You may like to hear yourself speak, but you need to focus on listening more.