Effective communication is a very important component of any given project. Project management experts say that one of the most common causes of project failures is ineffective communication. It is for this reason that effective project managers should be knowledgeable about project communication management. They should also be skilful in the planning, managing, and monitoring of communication within the different aspects of the project. All of these can contribute to the success of the project.

The Communication Plan

Project communication management starts with a concrete plan. The plan identifies the flow of critical and important information throughout the project life cycle. It also describes the people who are the recipients of the communication, the manner in which they will receive it, and the circumstances or the specific times they need to receive such communication. The plan also identifies the frequency of sending and receiving of the communication.

In general, a good project communication plan should include the following.

  • Goals, purpose, or objectives of the communication plan
  • Description of stakeholder roles
  • Description of information that require communication to stakeholders
  • Description of the methods of communication
  • Frequency of transmission of communication for each stakeholder

Importance of Effective Communication

The very nature of human interactions requires the use of communication. This is even more so in projects, where miscommunication or errors in communication can have a detrimental effect on the project.

Organisations earmark a huge budget on projects. Project failures can translate to financial losses to the organisation.

Effective communication in projects is important because it promotes the creation of reference documentation, something that all members of the team can always refer to. It also identifies the expectations of stakeholders, while increasing stakeholder visibility.

Project communication allows stakeholders to provide input to the project. This can help in the detection of issues. This can lead to the more effective management of such issues, while also minimising wasted work.

Overall, effective project communication increases productivity. 

Communication Methods and Media in Projects

Communicating important information to stakeholders requires knowledge of the three fundamental methods of communication in projects. These are as follows.

  • Interactive Communication

An effective method, interactive communication allows stakeholders and all other members of the project to engage in real-time. Examples of this method include phone calls, live chats, and video conferencing. Interactive communication is ideal in instances where different stakeholders are in different locations or regions. Face-to-face meetings are more suitable if all stakeholders are within a particular area.

  • Push Communication

This method of communication is suitable in instances where stakeholders or recipients of the information do not have to respond or provide feedback immediately. Examples of this type of communication include press releases, meeting notes, emails, status reports, official letters, faxes, and memos. The only downside of this method is that the project manager can never gauge whether the recipient understood the transmitted information or not.

  • Pull Communication

Project managers store the necessary information on a server or a location that will allow stakeholders ease of access to such information. This allows stakeholders to retrieve the information as necessary or when it is most convenient for them. Examples of media that illustrate this method include study materials, slide shows, and training sessions.

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Two-way Communication

One of the most important reasons why an interactive method of communication is better than other methods is the occurrence of a feedback system in real time. Push and pull communication methods also have a feedback system. However, the feedback often occurs a considerable time after the sending of the information.

This is the essence of two-way communication. One direction involves the project manager sending information to stakeholders in an attempt to inform or elicit a response. As the recipient receives the information, he decides what action to take next. Stakeholders can provide advice, give guidance, or even issue a directive, depending on the nature of the communication.

The stakeholder makes his actions known to the project manager through a preferred communication medium. This constitutes the second leg or the return leg of the two-way communication process. One can think of the second part of the two-way communication to be the feedback or the response of the receiver to the information provided by the sender.

Barriers to Effective Communication in Projects

There are several factors that can hinder effective communication in projects. These factors or barriers can include the following.

  • Internal Politics

Power games and vested interests are significant barriers to effective project communication. These obstacles often originate from the upper management, not necessarily the stakeholders themselves. Project managers should be able to identify who these key political players are in an effort to gain their confidence. This can facilitate the buying-in on the goals of the project.

  • Work Environment

Everyone deserves an environment conducive to optimum productivity. The workplace should have adequate lighting, ample spacing, and comfortable temperatures. It also helps to have a quiet and peaceful work environment. This will promote satisfaction in the work of everyone and facilitate more effective communication.

  • Emotions and Attitudes

Stress levels can impair a person’s judgment. This can have a negative impact on the effectiveness of communication. The information transmitted can be erroneous or not in its ideal format. Project managers should empathise and understand their team members as human beings.

  • Language and Culture

This can be an issue for organisations that observe multiculturalism. While most people understand and speak English, some of them may fail to grasp the meaning of certain terms. The same is true with culture. There can be cultural considerations that can influence the effectiveness of project communication.

  • Geography

Companies with several offices in different countries will have to find a more efficient way of communicating. Time zone differences can make synchronous interactive communication not feasible.

Communication Plan, Information Management, and Reporting

The project communication plan lays the groundwork describing the flow of information from project managers to stakeholders and vice versa. This provides a basis for the effective planning and implementation of a comprehensive information management system. Such a system ensures the accuracy, validity, availability, and accessibility of the information.

Well-managed information can provide managers with the correct data necessary for accurate reporting. Reports are what stakeholders are most concerned about.

Communication is very important in project management. It prescribes the basic rules to follow in the transmission of critical information to people in the organisation who make the important decisions. This allows the organisation to ensure the success of its ongoing project.

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