A common denominator in challenged projects is poor communication. What are the results? Stakeholders make faulty assumptions. Team members don't trust one another. Work has to be redone. Let’s look at ways to avoid five bad communication habits.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” —George Bernard Shaw
1. Communicating only once.
Busy Billy reviews the project charter to his team and other stakeholders in the kick-off meeting. Then he moves on to other project management tasks and never mentions it again.
How to improve: Things pop up in projects and people want to know if it's in scope. At moments like these, project managers should review the charter with the project team to ensure that the team is aligned with the original intent of the project.
2. Giving stakeholders irrelevant information.
Some project managers email the project documents to all stakeholders including the project schedule, budget, process improvement plans, weekly status reports, project risks, and stakeholder analysis, to name a few. What do you think the stakeholders do? Yes, most ignore the email and miss critical information.
How to improve: Tailor your communication to the needs of your stakeholders. When analyzing your stakeholders—particularly your high-power/high-interest stakeholders, ask about their communication preferences. What information would they like to receive? How would they like to receive it?
3. Communicating to everyone the same way.
We all develop habits, some good and some bad. Are you one of those people who largely communicates in only one or two ways such as email and phone?
How to improve: Use a wider variety of communication channels including but not limited to:
- Instant messaging
- Teleconferences / Videoconferences
- Internal blogs
Also, have more face-to-face communication when possible. This allows you to improve communication. How? Body language and facial expressions can greatly enhance the understanding between you and your stakeholders.
4. Thinking that communication will just happen.
Jovial Julie thinks people should understand things through osmosis. She jokes, “Why should I have to be the one to carry the communication burden? We have professionals on my teams. I’ve got more important project management responsibilities to take care of.” Really?
How to improve: Be intentional about your communication. Develop and execute your communication plan. Periodically, review and update the plan. Ask for feedback from your stakeholders on how you can improve your communication.
5. Not planning your project meetings.
How often have you attended a project meeting and left mumbling—what’s was that all about? Many meetings are a complete waste of time. Why? Little thought in the planning.
How to improve: First, Develop and distribute your meeting agendas prior to your meetings. Ask the meeting participants if they have agenda items they would like to include. Attach materials that participants should read and bring to the meeting.
Second, invite subject matter experts who can communicate the needed information and help the team analyze things.
Third, determine how you will facilitate the discussion points. Are there items in which you wish to brainstorm? Should you present a prototype? Will you illustrate with an example?
Lastly, determine how decisions will be made. Will the project sponsor make the final decision? Does the project team have the authority to make the decision? Perhaps, you—the project manager—plans to get the team’s input and make the decision.
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