Communication in project management
As a project manager you will be the visible face of the project and at the center of the project team, and this implies a lot of communication.
For this reason, communication skills are included in the aspects to be developed when you get this position (in the last section these aspects are discussed); and it is also the reason why this chapter is the first one in this section.
In a project, you will have to communicate with the team and encourage them to communicate with you, inform the management and the client, gather information from other people, etc. And achieving all this will be a determining factor for the achievement of the objectives and the ease with which the project develops.
But let's go step by step.
The first thing you should know are the objectives pursued with this communication; among which we can highlight:
- Integrate the team. A project is a set of interrelated tasks performed by people. Therefore, it is important that these people and yourself as project manager are coordinated, and that you know at all times what has to be done and how it is being done.
- Inform. In any project there is always a group of people, who without participating directly in it, will be affected by its outcome or need to be informed about it. Providing each person with the information they need is an important objective of communication.
- To be informed. This is the other side of the communication coin, as you also need to be informed. You need to know expectations, receive feedback, information on the status of the project, possible problems, etc. Without this communication it will be very difficult to plan and control the project, so you must encourage two-way communication.
- Avoid or solve conflicts. The fact that the project is executed by people implies the existence of conflicts, both technical and personal, which must be prevented and managed by the project manager through communication.
Characteristics of communication in project management
And how should this communication be in order to be effective?
From a project management point of view, we can define a series of characteristics to achieve good communication. Consider them when defining the communication plan of your project.
- Precise. Sending a large amount of information to the same person makes it difficult for them to focus on what is important, which often leads to confusion. It is therefore advisable that communications be direct and tailored to the objective and interests of each person. This should not be confused with “skimping” on information, since without falling into the excess of information, it is important to provide the context of the requests or information being transmitted. This will lead to a better understanding of this information, a greater ability to provide and carry out the work, as well as a greater sense of involvement on the part of the interlocutor.
- Continuous. Within the limits set by common sense, it is better to transmit small amounts of information frequently than to communicate a lot at once. This makes it easier for the recipient to receive and assimilate the information and increases their attachment to the project. This should be done respecting the previous point, which means that you should not “bombard” someone with small amounts of information that do not affect them. Ideally, each person should receive the information they need just when they need it. In practice this is not possible, but the further you move away from this principle the more misunderstandings and confusion will be generated within the project.
- Adjusted to the interlocutor. It is not the same to communicate with a member of the project team that belongs to your company, with a supplier, with the client, or with the management; therefore, the message, in form, support and content, must be adjusted to each receiver.
- Participative. As I have already mentioned, one of the objectives pursued with communication is to be informed. To this end, you must encourage two-way communication, and introduce people who can contribute knowledge and points of view that may favor the project's objectives. This is especially important in the planning phase and the beginning of the execution, where there is a special interest in discovering hidden requirements and risks.
- Open. As a general rule, it is more advisable to be open, even with negative points, than to try to hide information. In this sense, it is better to say that something is wrong and the plan we have to solve it, than not to say it. This avoids rumors, a feeling of lack of control, nerves, etc.
Types of communication in project management
In general, it is possible to divide the communications that are developed within the project into four groups, depending on whether it is formal or informal, and internal or external.
Formal internal communication.
This is all communication that takes place within the project team through formal channels. In general, it corresponds to the distribution of official project documentation or information related to the project objectives, which must be considered in order to execute the work. The fact that it is done through formal channels allows the recording and subsequent consultation of such information, and it is usually linked to a certain procedure. Periodic follow-up meetings and their subsequent minutes would be an example of formal internal communication.
Formal external communication.
Similar to the previous one, this is the communication that is developed from the project to the outside (client, management, stakeholders) through formal channels. This type of communication is used when you want to record the information transmitted, either because of its importance, because it affects the objectives, or because its delivery is part of the scope. Monitoring reports or minutes of acceptance would be examples of formal external communication.
Informal internal/external communication.
This is the most common type of communication in project management, the one that allows integrating the team, and the best for resolving and avoiding conflicts. Due to its informal nature, there is no record of it, so as project manager you must have enough criteria to collect the most important issues that must be formally transmitted.
An important aspect to consider is sending emails or preliminary documents as informal communication. This is a common occurrence, but you should consider that when it is in writing it can be considered a formal communication.
It would not be the first time that in front of a conflict an e-mail or a document appears that for the sender was informal, but the receiver considers it formal. In these cases, it is best to clarify the informal nature of the communication, either in the body of the e-mail or as a note on the documents.
Additional resources on this topic.....
Learn more in "A Practical Approach to Project Management" (book + editable templates)
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