Over 90% of a project manager's time is spent in communicating. Communication-related issues are the most frequent problems faced by the project manager. Learn how to develop an effective Communication Plan in our PMP® or CAPM® training courses or project manager training.
What is Communication Management?
"Keep me in the loop" or "I tried reaching out to them and they have gone radio silent." We often hear these terms throughout the life of the project. It is a common frustration among the project team.
Communications management is about keeping everybody in the loop. The communications planning process concerns defining the types of information you will deliver, who will receive it, the format for communicating it, and the timing of its release and distribution. It turns out that 90% of a project manager's job is spent on communication so it's important to make sure everybody gets the right message at the right time. However, one individual such as the project manager is not solely responsible for communication, rather the project manager controls the communication process. It is essentially a project manager to distribute accurate information in a timely manner and to the right audience.
The communication management plan sets the stakeholders' expectations. It can be formal and/or informal. You need to figure out what kind of communication your stakeholder needs to make timely decisions and receive the information in a manner that is easiest for them. Your stakeholder may want to be heavily involved in all communication or may just ask for a high-level overview. A project produces an abundant amount of information and it may not be ideal to bog down the stakeholders with minutiae. Remember, communication can be negative or positive. The key is to share with the stakeholder.
It is important to understand that adding even one person to a project can impact the paths of communication. We previously noted that a project manager alone cannot be solely responsible for communication. It is vital for a project manager to determine the number of channels that exist between people. Why is this important? It there are over 100 people present, it is critical that a few people are elected to speak on behalf of the rest otherwise conflicting information can lead to delays in the project.
Communications technology determines how you communicate in a project. It is very common communication will take on various forms such as email, formal reports, project websites, face-to-face meetings, etc. Information security will also determine the method of communication. For example, a bid on a project dictates a hard copy hand-delivered bid that is in a sealed envelope to maintain the integrity of the bid values. The goal is to figure out how you will keep everyone notified of project issues and status. Training may be required if the project team is not experienced in the communication method. For example, it has been decided that an online project management software will be used for most of the project communications, however, only a handful have any experience with the software. You may find many times a project team is consists of members whose, interaction is primarily through electronic communication, virtual teams. The goal is to avoid miscommunications that can lead to incorrect decisions and distrust among the team members.
How are some of the ways we can demonstrate communication and understanding the message? Active listening requires the receiver of the information to ensure they understood the sender's message. Effective listening requires full attention from the listener. Nodding your head, a form of nonverbal communication, asking questions, etc. In today's world, many of us are heavily engrossed in our phones and do not give the full attention required to understand and process the information. It is also important to recognize noise. Noise is anything that can interfere with the transmission of the message. Many times, there is plane overhead or a fire truck coming down the street so you cannot hear well. There may be a language barrier. Communication is paramount to the success of the project. It is important to always deal with the problem, do not ignore it, it will still be there the next day. Communicate directly, do not leave it someone else and hope they will tell the stakeholder. As we now know, communication is not always positive, however, do not skirt around the truth or omit it. It is important that the stakeholder can trust you and know that you will be truthful. Before you distribute information, make sure it is accurate. It is better to fact check than sending something out that has not been properly reviewed and vetted. Get the whole story first.