Top 4 Ways To Improve Project Communication

Gabriel Nwatarali

Feb 21 2019

Project managers have a lot more responsibilities than most. You are tasked with meeting deadlines, managing budgets, and communicating with stakeholders among others to ensure the desired project outcome. Indeed, it’s a tough job. However, the primary reason projects fail is due to poor project communication.

A survey by Liquid Planner found that over 43 percent of project managers in the manufacturing sector reported information sharing as their biggest challenge. This is not surprising since a large portion of what managers do is project communication.

The number one objective is to produce the desired outcome by utilizing your skills, knowledge, tactics, and tools to complete a successful project. Communication is at the core of it all because project managers usually work with teams. Therefore, ensuring an efficient flow of communication is crucial. Software tools like Monday or FreshBooks that simplify entire project workflow and engagement among teams are virtually priceless.

Effective project communication skills require strong collaboration, including communicating with clients and employees. Good systems ensure transmissions are quick, information is delivered, and interpreted accordingly.

Sound ways of improving project communication

Jodi Kanter, a New York Times Correspondent, wrote an interesting but alarming piece about Starbuck’s automated scheduling system and procedures back in 2014. The article sheds light on the daily struggles of workers who follow an automated schedule. Starbucks responded by altering its scheduling policies for 130, 000 employees the next day!

A response like that wouldn’t have been possible if Starbucks didn’t have a unified and effective communication plan or process in place. Clearly, the information reached the right people via a pre-defined communication channel that facilitated a prompt response.

The issues that cause projects to fail have remained relatively the same over the years. A PWC survey indicated that scope adjustments, missed deadlines, lack of resources, and poorly defined goals were top reasons that hinder the success of projects. However, all of that stems from poor communication when you think about it.

Source: PWC 4th Global Portfolio and Programme Management Survey

For example, you can miss out on proper funding for a great project because of a lack of communication when the idea was presented. The result is insufficient resources to complete the project successfully.

Effective project communication goes further than written and verbal. There’s visual communication too. Presenting and communicating ideas is more powerful when used strategically.

1. Use project communication tools

You have to make sure everyone on your team is aware of his or her assigned responsibilities and establish a flawless channel for two-way communication. These are necessities but can be nearly impossible to manage depending on how large a project is.

Email just isn’t enough when it comes to passing on project details back and forth. Progress updates, important documents, deliverables, timelines, budget details etc. become lost in a sea of emails very quickly, causing confusion among employees.

Fortunately, project communication tools like Wrike can simplify planning, improve communication and tracking of project details. For instance, it’s easier to see how everyone is doing with his or her assigned tasks because the software manages all your communicated info in one place.

Hands down, sharing progress and keeping your entire team on the same page is more efficient with project management applications. Project management software is built with the RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed) model in mind. This model describes deliverables and participation of various team members with regards to a project. Basically, a way to document who needs to complete a task, the decision-maker accountable for it, who to consult before moving forward, and who needs to be informed. Following the RACI model is easy with project management tools since you don’t have to hand-create documentation.

2. Be an active listener

We often speak more than we listen and it takes deliberate practice to abandon the habit. Listening is a crucial skill that every project manager needs and should have. You can miss critical details whenever you aren’t paying attention. So practice active listening, which means to fully concentrate on the information being received.

Deliberately let others know you’re listening to them via eye contact or body language, such as a nod. Re-concentrate every time you become distracted from a conversation.

Removing potential distractions such as a smartphone or turning off your TV can help. Use paraphrasing to show that you’re absorbing information and engaged with the conversation.

Some of these techniques can apply to email and text messages too. For example, distractions can hinder clarity via these communication channels. Therefore, it’s best to get rid of them.

3. Have productive meetings only

Effective teamwork requires meetings but they can also eat up your time if you’re not careful. Plan your meetings accordingly, from beginning to end, to ensure it doesn’t become a time-drain.

Use the following tips to have more productive meetings:

  • Write an agenda – A meeting without an agenda often results in time wasting because it’s vague or unfocused, lacking any detail of substance. Prepare an agenda ahead of time, preferably, in list form. Email a copy to everyone prior to your meeting and specify the end time. This will keep attendees focussed on getting through the list in a timely fashion.
  • Record attendees – Know who’s attending your meeting by having a list of attendees. Review the list to make sure all key personnel is present. Replace missing decision-makers with others or take suitable measures if anyone can’t attend for whatever reason. The purpose of your meeting is to make decisions and this approach ensures that happens.
  • Follow strict time frames – Manage the time you spend on each topic. It’s easy to lose track of time whenever it isn’t managed. You may push for attendees to arrive 5 to 15 minutes early.
  • Avoid off-topic discussions – Never discuss off topic matters during your meeting. Instead, offer a means to bring up interests or issues later such as sending an email after the session.
  • Take notes – Your notes will help you follow up or complete any task(s) assigned to you. Ideally, use a small or medium-sized notebook. Avoid using a computer, laptop, smartphone or anything of the sorts because they can be distracting to attendees. In addition, some people may make unfavorable assumptions about what you’re doing.

4. Be available

One of the best traits of great project managers is their ability to be readily available in order to support their team. They have a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of their employees. Most don’t just communicate at a distance (e.g. emails). They’ll hold one-on-one briefings and use other project communication methods. Foster an environment where communication is welcomed and encouraged.

Better communication will increase your project success rates

Good communication is needed at every level of business. It isn’t easy to achieve but as the leader or project manager, you have to take initiatives that encourage team communication and collaboration. For instance, introducing new technology to improve communication flow or laying out project management communication strategies.

Plenty of organizations are still relying on email to manage project communication. As previously noted, this can get messy fast. Use project management software for effective project communication, storing, and sharing of vital details. Elevating your communication and capabilities will increase project success rates and win you more contracts.

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