By Kathy Gallagher
Project Communication is Challenging
Project communication is a critical skill for any project manager. Communication requires continuous improvement throughout the life of the project. Project managers often act as the project spoke-person as well as the voice of stakeholders. Communication methods evolve with the changes in technology, and it is important for project managers to adapt to those changes. The complexity or size of a project are not the only factors to consider when determining the appropriate communication method. A challenge for the project manager is to identify the communication methods that will contribute to and support the success of a project.
What are the Categories of Project Communication?
As discussed in the “Road to Better Project Communication” article, some methods of communication are more effective than others. As defined by the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) 4th Edition, there are three categories of methods of communication on a project – interactive, push and pull. Interactive communication is a method which enables all team members to interact. Examples of interactive communication are face-to-face meetings, conference calls, or video chats. Push communication, as the name implies is a method that sends information out even if not requested. Contrary to push communication, pull communication is a term which describes the method where someone seeks out the information on their own.
Communication Methods to Consider
Project managers should consider several factors in determining the communication method(s) to use throughout the life of a project. Some factors to consider:
How technically savvy is the business sponsor?
Assess the expertise and tolerance of the business sponsor(s) for electronic information about the project. If the business sponsor does not work well through email or conference calls, a project manager may need to adjust their communication strategy. Business sponsor support is one of the key indicators of a successful project. Project managers are tasked with the challenge of ensuring that business sponsors understand all aspects of a project through the most effective communication method.
Are there missed opportunities in not conducting face-to-face meetings?
Today’s stakeholders, which can range from end-users, developers, and senior executives are often geographically dispersed. Conducting face-to-face meetings can be challenging.For example, when presenting bad news regarding the project to stakeholders, it is important to observe the facial expressions and body language of the meeting attendees to best understand their reactions. As described in the blog “The 5 New Rules of Face-to-face Meetings,” the connection in a face-to-face meeting can be a core component that contributes to successful projects.
When to use informal communication?
- Formal communication is what most individuals expect when receiving a project status. The stakeholders expect an updated project plan or project dashboard to understand the progress of the project. However, it is just as important to leverage informal communication such as a quick chat in the hallway to gain information. Informal communication can often lend itself to an open minded conversation. Of course, a follow-up written communication helps to ensure all parties understood the conversation.
What is the right balance between pushing and pulling information?
As the business world is overloaded with information, the difficulty becomes finding the right balance between pushing and pulling information. Successful projects balance when and how to send information against the temptation to request team members retrieve needed information.
Project Communication Needs Constant Assessment
Finally, it is important to remember that project communication is a constant challenge for both new and experienced project managers. Neglecting to assess and revise communication strategies frequently can be errors in judgement. Project success could very well be dependent on the communication that you forget to distribute!