Keys to Effective Business Communication in Project Management

Bill Gerneglia

IT managers and other business leaders in many organizations are constantly asked to coordinate and organize many different types of projects. Effective communications and collaboration among project team members are surely important keys to a successful outcome. I have spoken with a number of managers who spend time regularly jumping back and forth between different types of projects using different project management and development methodologies. 

As specific examples, a couple of the more formal project management approaches in the IT development area include Agile and Waterfall project management techniques. Each approach has its advantages and drawbacks.  While Agile methodologies are better suited towards smaller, better defined development projects, a Waterfall approach works well when there are minor number of changes made to specifications along the path of the project.

Experience demonstrates a one-size-fits-all approach to managing communications, projects, and project teams does not work well in most cases. Establishing and maintaining the proper flow of information between project team workers may be challenging especially when you consider the workers may be located in different time zones, possibly speak different languages, and even have some major cultural differences.

I wonder how frequently the communications breakdown between project team workers and project manager?  It probably occurs more than we wish to admit. Even though the technology that enables effective communication is evolving incredibly fast it does not mean that we are all communicating any better. Many organizations and CIOs are slow to adopt the latest collaborative applications for their organizations.  This directly affects employee productivity and can slow the pace of project completion. It really does not matter if you are a project leader, a team member, a project sponsor or other stakeholder, effective communication is ultimately critical to success. Having the best tools can only help this cause.

According to project manager and project communications specialist Ty Kiisel from AtTask, here are a few basic and often overlooked suggestions that might help your organization conduct better business communication between working project groups.

Actually Communicate: I don't know why it's so hard to do, but I've worked with a lot of people over the years that never made the effort to have a conversation. They didn't answer emails. They were so heavily scheduled that getting time with them was virtually impossible. And, they seldom made the effort to step away from the desk to have a conversation with individual members of the team. Building rapport and trust doesn't happen in meetings—it takes place in one-on-one conversations outside the context of a meeting. Communicating with the team requires that you actually do it. It requires actually communicating.

Don't Force People to Trust a Crystal Ball: Face it, it might be very clear to you, but members of your team can't read your mind. Don't make them try. This happens far too often in the workplace. Document your thoughts and share with the group using collaborative technology.

Don't Pretend to Know More than You Do: It's OK to make stuff up as you go along. Great leaders have done that for hundreds (if not thousands) of years. There's nothing in the guidebook that requires a leader to know everything. "I'm figuring this out as we go along, so I'm going to need your help..." will get everyone on the team working together to solve the problem. When leaders don't know, but treat the team like their stupid because they don't, it destroys morale, inhibits creativity and doesn't encourage everyone's best work. Besides, if you're making it up as you go along, the team can tell. Be honest about what you know and what you don't know and you will encourage honest and effective communication from the team.

Lay All Your Cards on the Table: I'm convinced that those closest to the work really do understand it the best. Transparency in communication gets everyone engaged in the project at hand. Holding back information that would help the team solve problems or better understand the objectives just doesn't make sense. When people understand the objective, they understand why they are doing what they're doing and they understand the value of their individual contribution to the effort, you'll get their best work.

Team synergy is a powerful tool: I learned a long time ago that two heads are better than one.  Involving everyone in the project plan, where appropriate, does a number of things to streamline team effectiveness and encourage project success.  Not the least of these is to create buy-in and insure greater team participation.

Do not be afraid to learn from your mistakes when you make them.  You can keep your projects moving forward by maintaining effective business communication practices and leveraging the latest collaborative tools available.  Remember collaboration among project workers is a key to project success. Who knows they might even enjoy working on your projects and you may even be noticed and rewarded for your innovative leadership style.

 

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Bill has been a member of the technology and publishing industries for more than 25 years and brings extensive expertise to the roles of CEO, CIO, and Executive Editor. Most recently, Bill was COO and Co-Founder of CIOZone.com and the parent company PSN Inc. Previously, Bill held the position of CTO of both Wiseads New Media and About.com.

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