A lot of things are happening on projects daily – especially when critical phases are in progress, or key tasks are being worked on or issues are rising to the top. Sometimes projects are running smoothly and sometimes they are experiencing many bumps in the road. The common thread throughout the easy and the difficult times needs to be good, effective, and efficient communication led by the project manager but practiced by the entire project team and all stakeholders.
There is no better way to ensure that everyone stays on the same page, expectations are aligned and the right work is being performed at the right time than with good project communication. Set the tone early – preferably with a project communication plan that tells everyone how, when and where project communication will happen (a template for such a plan is available here) and you will help set your project, team and customer on the path to project success.
Below are my top 5 reasons – in no particular order – of why effective project communication is so critical to project success…
Thorough status reporting. Good project status reporting is one of those fundamental best practices but it is also something that many project managers – surprisingly – drop the ball on from time to time. This can happen for many reasons…maybe things are slow on the project and you don’t think a status report is needed this week or perhaps everything is so chaotic on the project that you think it’s wrong to stop and take the time to put out a status report when you have so much “work” to do. In both cases, the reasoning is misguided. Your client wants, needs, and likely paid for the weekly status reporting. Give it to them. It helps ensure that all stakeholders – the team, the customer, your senior management, 3rd party vendors, etc. – stay on the same page with the same understanding of project status and the same expectations. The project status report is always going to be a very critical piece of the project communication puzzle.
Team and customer meetings that get the information to and from the right individuals. Likewise, team and customer meetings need to happen regularly. Don’t skip them when you’re too busy and don’t skip them when it seems that there isn’t enough going on to even meet about. They are always important and you never know when a key piece of information will slip through the cracks because you failed to have a project status call in a specific week. Conduct them regularly…always.
Accurate, detailed requirements. Good, complete, detailed project requirements are the lifeblood of the project. Be sure to take the time planning with the customer and team to document requirements that get to the very detail of what work needs to be performed on the project in order to implement the proper solution. Good requirements tell everyone what needs to be configured and designed, what needs to be tested and what needs to be reviewed at go-live. Without good requirements, how else can you communicate the proper tasks for completion? How will you know that done is truly done?
Effective project kickoff session. All great projects start off with a project kickoff session that is designed to ensure that the project and methodology is discussed and reviewed at a high-level, communication processes are expressed and agreed upon and everyone leaves with expectations properly set and a firm and accurate understanding of what happens next and how they fit into the rest of the project. This is where project accountability for the team members and the customer starts. Do it right.
Project team collaboration. The best, most adhesive and focused teams are those that are collaborating well on the project. And collaboration starts and ends with good communication. Yes, it often involves the use of a tool or avenue to get everyone in the same place and sharing the same information. But the underlying premise is full team collaboration and accountability for the tasks and information each is responsible for. And collaboration supports and is built around good project communication.
Summary / Call for Input
Communication is Job One for the project manager. Projects that are run without how communication will be handled on the project are likely to stumble out of the gate. Poor communication leads to bad requirements, missed deadlines, omitted work that is critical to the project, task assignments that are misunderstood and high likelihood of expensive re-work or even a final solution that is rolled out to an anxiously awaiting end user community who who quickly finds out that the solution does not meet their needs. Communication is where good project management and successful projects start. And end.
For additional tips and insights about project, program and portfolio maturity, consider these additional resources:
- Eclipse Video: An Introduction to Project Portfolios
- PMO Toolkit, our guide to help you identify the strategies, processes, and software needed to establish and mature a successful PMO.
About Brad Egeland
Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.