Communication for effective project delivery
Regardless of how good a project manager is, it means very little if they are unable to communicate. It is understood that the ability to communicate extends beyond the professional field. The ability to communicate, via the written word, speech and listening should never be underestimated. The adept Project Manager is able to navigate around communication risks by utilizing communication as a tool to forge long lasting, positive working relationships and leveraging them to execute and deliver successful projects.
Which are the points to be considered when evaluating communication skills, they should include;
- Understanding the audience and connecting with them.
- Be diplomatic
- Establishing the preferred communication type
- Timing and Anticipation
- Keeping Leadership engaged and involved
- Managing through a “Communicate, tell, roundtable” method.
- Practicing delivery.
- Ending Positively.
The Project Manager must have the ability to accurately, astutely and concisely convey project information and details to stakeholders, resources, vendors and third parties. Providing just the right amount of information to each, and avoid information overload. It should be with great care, precision and accuracy that project managers must gather, integrate and disseminate information to those involved and depending on the project’s success.
Understanding the audience and making a connection, people are different, and what one finds humorous, another can be offended. At project inception it’s a good idea to meet one-on -one with each team member to assess their comfort level with different communication vehicles. Experience has proven that individuals are extremely receptive to this dialogue and quite frankly surprised when PM’s take the time to go to such lengths. Up front planning in this respect establishes rapport and a path for effective, respectful dialogue, and eliminates risks and guesswork that would otherwise exist.
Being diplomatic can take the project manager a long way, by utilising effective communication to establish trust and authority as well as to motivate, influence and control. Political effectiveness begins with knowing key project stakeholders and their goals and motivations. Remember that people respond to and are motivated by positivity. Be inclusive and ask for suggestions, insight and assistance to solving an issue.
Establishing the type of communication is preferred, would a weekly report suffice as opposed to face to face meeting. Face to face interactions are preferred for those that value “extras” such as body language, the subtleties of facial expression, etc. Some individuals prefer to work strictly with E-mail messages. Once this is understood, outline these in the communication Plan.
It is best not to procrastinate when delivering information, remember it is best to communicate sooner. As projects occur at a fast and furious rate, and keeping communication relevant and timely is paramount. The ability to anticipate “next moves” and responses is an acquired skill. Consider the audience’s reaction to the information and how this may shift the climate.
Keeping senior leadership engaged and involved is very important; remember to provide updates as to business viability, alignment with relevant strategic objectives, key issues and risks. Also, while senior leadership should have access to project details, their concern and appetite is generally reserved for higher-level detail and information.
For all meetings, have a specific agenda that outlines what the team will accomplish during the call or meeting. Communicate the topics that will be covered and the overall goal of the meeting. This conveys preparation to lead dictates purpose and direction and provides the opportunity for team members to speak up if there’s a topical question or additional clarification needed.
Consider holding a “round-table” check-out where each team member has a final opportunity to provide feedback, ask questions, air complaints, etc. This is an informal way of making sure there is feedback and participation from all team members.
Post an immediate communication summary of each point discussed, key decisions reached, action items, owners, due dates and overall project team next steps. Key decisions are an important item and may later be used to justify a particular course of action. This can’t miss approach provides a timely and relevant chronological retrospective and mitigates communication risks.
Practice the delivery, in front of a mirror, a few people at a time or consider attending toastmasters or offer to speak at a local chapter meeting on a familiar topic. This will further hone communication and delivery skills. Not being familiar with everyone in the room, should bolster additional self-confidence when nailing delivery.
Ending on a positive note by highlighting individual and team accomplishments as well as recognize resource contributions. This will provide the team with hope and a sustained sense of accomplishment. The goal of the project manager is maintain positive momentum while reinforcing the projects goals and viability.
Make a point to end meetings and communications enthusiastically and on a positive up-swing. Remembering that teams feed off the energy and drive of the project manager and utilizing the ingredients will greatly reduce communication risks and allow teams to benefit.