Wednesday, 09 April 2014 11:31

Effective Communication: A Challenge to Project Managers

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How often we, as project managers have taken communication lightly when managing a project? Most project managers are generally good communicators but are they communicating effectively? In the recent PMI’s 2013 Pulse of the Profession report, it has revealed that the most crucial success factor in project management is effective communications to all stakeholders. The research also finds that effective communication leads to more successful projects and hence allowing organizations to become high performers.

In the same report, it revealed that not all projects will succeed. On an average, two in five projects do not meet the project’s original goal or intent and one-half of those unsuccessful projects are related to ineffective communications. (See Figure 1)

foongapr21Figure 1. One out of five projects is unsuccessful due to ineffective communications.

Communication is one key element which has to be applied effectively throughout a project’s life cycle from the beginning till the end. Hence, why is it that Project Managers are not communicating effective?

The challenges a Project Manager has may include the following:

Stakeholders

A modest project will tend to have a number of people who need to know its progress and about any issues which crops up during execution. Modern projects nowadays often have an added complication of stakeholders scattered all over the globe. Without a solid communication plan and strategy, it will be impossible to keep everyone up to date and informed.

Related Article: The 5 New Rules of Face-to-Face Communication

In addition to that, different stakeholders may have different expectations and hence the method of communication may vary from one to another and hence a standard communication plan may not be effective.

Team members

A project team is generally quite a diverse group of people. Project teams are usually thrust together to deliver a customized and unique benefit to an organisation. In some projects, team members are put together and have never worked together before. The diversity within a project team which can be cultural, geographical, organisational, functional, age related, level of education and so on is indeed the biggest challenge for a project manager.

Ever Changing Situation

All projects are by nature fluid and ever changing. Hence a project manager has to consider the changes and challenges all the way until the end of the project and ensure that the team and stakeholders are fully up to date with issues and progress so that there will be no nasty surprises for them to discover later on.

Hence, to ensure that effective communication is applied throughout the whole project and to overcome the challenges, a Project Manager should incorporate a communication plan at the planning stage of the project. When making a communication plan, a project manager will have to ask the following questions:

  • What kind of communication is required? (Management Meetings, Team Meetings, Management Reporting, Project Records)
  • Who needs to be communicated with? (stakeholders)
  • How frequent is the communication required? (how often)
  • What needs to be communicated? (reports, meeting minutes, details or summary)

A form of standardised communication plan could be adopted. However to be effective and efficient, a communication plan has to be adaptable and suitable to all stakeholders. As described in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®Guide) – Fifth Edition, ‘Effective communication means that the information is provided in the right format, at the right time, to the right audience, and with the right impact. Efficient communication means providing only the information that is needed’ Hence, the project manager has to tailor the communication plan accordingly for each project. The plan should be maintained and updated throughout the project life cycle if there are any changes.

There are numerous tools that a project manager can use to better tailor a communication approach. For example, for stakeholder analysis, a Power/Interest grid could be used where stakeholders are grouped based on their level of authority (‘power’) and their level of concern (‘interest’) regarding the project’s outcome (see Figure 2). Once the analysis is obtained, a project manager can now assess how key stakeholders are likely to react or respond in various situations, in order to plan how to influence them to enhance their support and mitigate potential negative impacts.

FoongApr9 IMG02Figure 2. Power/Interest Grid

Another tool project managers can use to improve communication in regards to problems on the project is by creating a fish bone diagram or Ishikawa Diagram (Figure 3). Each bone is labelled with a problem and then it is broken down further by looking at the causes for each problem. This tool is simple but effective at getting to the real issue quickly.

FoongApr9 IMG03
Figure 3. Fish Bone Diagram / Ishikawa Diagram

Using a RACI chart (Figure 4) can be very helpful too in promoting healthy communication in a team. RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed. The chart ensures that at least one person is in charge of each category, as well as helps others to see their role in assisting the responsible person in getting the job done. This also helps prevent communication that does not need to take place and only interrupts the flow.

FoongApr9 IMG04Figure 4. RACI Chart (R-Responsible, A-Accountable, C-Consulted, I-Informed)

In conclusion, effective communication is indeed important for a successful project and in order to achieve effective communication in a project, communication planning is essential and using tools and putting processes in place to ensure daily effective communication during project execution will overcome the challenges and contribute to a more successful project.

Don't forget to leave your comments below.

Sources:
PMI’s 2013 Pulse of the Profession
A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®Guide) – Fifth Edition

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Mei Yuen Foong

Mei Yuen Foong has been in IT for the last 19 years, providing training and implementing services for the Hospitality industry. She has vast experiences in implementing solutions in the Asian region. For the past 8 years, Mei Yuen has been focusing in Project Management. She is now a project manager of MIMOS Berhad which is the National Research & Development Centre in ICT for Malaysia.

Comments  

-1 # Ajit 2014-04-10 00:37
Although it seems pretty straight-forwar d, many projects do not deploy these tools effectively to communicate to their stakeholders. I would name the Grid as "Power vs. Influence" rather than "Power vs. Interest" because those who are most interested are also the most influential. Just my take.
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-9 # RJV 2014-04-10 08:35
Figure 1 needs to be spell checked.
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-2 # Nimesh Doshi 2014-05-22 01:01
Excellent article
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-3 # AZZ 2014-08-23 22:25
What are the communication issues in project management that related to clients that derived misunderstandin g?
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0 # Michael King 2014-09-12 20:55
Good article. Going further though what about the 'how' of communicating effectively in a PM context, understanding what motivates different personality types and the communication do's and don'ts on keeping people engaged and morale is at risk.
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+2 # tomer 2015-04-03 06:29
challenges of projects
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+1 # Kasia Krn 2015-04-27 05:04
You listed out some great ideas here. Definitely worth sharing! We’ve got a blog post on communication in project management, too, and included a few more tricks. Here it is: https://netguru.co/blog/communication-project-management Hope you’ll visit us!
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0 # Yuri 2015-05-13 12:29
In software development, prototyping applications are increasingly used. These can enable project requirements to be communicated clearly and visually, without the need of complex communication frameworks. We have compiled research into how tools like these can save time and money for your project : http://blog.fluidui.com/why-prototyping-can-save-your-company-a-fortune/

Thanks,
- Yuri
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-5 # darlington saro 2015-10-17 14:16
nice post i will recommend students use his site http://www.saroproject.com to get their assignments and projects done
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-2 # Taher M 2016-04-20 15:15
great ideas but still not clear
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0 # Andrew Mitchell 2016-09-23 15:00
I love the Power/Interest Grid. It is a great idea. Has anyone else used it?
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