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Project Management

The Importance of Effective Communication in Project Management

Robert Bruce
December 15, 2015
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communication matrix template

Can you imagine managing a project without communication? Sounds like a nightmare, right?

It would be pretty much impossible—what with all the layers of project requirements, details, and decisions that need to be approved by all those important folks up the chain of command. Every step requires some new task to talk about, and that task depends on another task, decision, or person.

When it comes to project management, you can’t go at it alone. But even the best tools won’t matter much without effective communication. In other words, you’ve got to know how to talk to your people!

So what are some of the best ways to improve your communication in project management? Let’s walk through it.

Why is communication important in project management?

The importance of communication in project management can’t be stressed enough. That’s because it’s critical to project success.

Good communication keeps conflict and confusion from bogging your project down by ensuring key players are aligned on project goals and know exactly what’s expected of them. It also helps build team-wide trust so everyone works better together from project start to finish.

Types of communication in project management

No project relies on a single type of communication to get work done. You might use a combination of these communication methods to keep people informed on your projects:

  • Email
  • Meetings (in-person, phone, or video chat)
  • Project plans
  • Discussion boards
  • Collaboration apps
  • Status reports
  • Surveys

So how do you know which communication types are right for your project? Look at what worked well—and what didn’t—for past projects. Then bring your team and stakeholders into the conversation to get their input. Everyone has different communication styles, so take those into consideration to ensure your project communications will actually land. 

A communication plan can help you devise a strategy for what effective communication will look like on any given project. That way everyone involved in the project knows what to expect and how to communicate with each other effectively and efficiently.

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Top communication skills for project managers

You want to be the best project manager in the history of your company, right? Of course you do!

Here are 5 communication skills the best project managers regularly apply to their projects:

  1. Listen. Effective project managers don’t just wait for their turn to talk. Listen to your team—both the good and the bad—to really understand issues and look for ways to fix them.
  2. Emphasize efficiency over speed. Make sure your team knows that going 10 miles an hour toward a specific destination is much better than going 30 miles an hour in circles.
  3. Dig into the details. Listening is one thing, but to get to the bottom of processes and situations, good project managers are willing to get their hands a little dirty and ask important client questions.
  4. Respect your team. As we’ve said, project management is all about relationships. When you treat your team well, they’ll (usually) treat you well in return. Be nice!
  5. Keep everyone in the loop. Just because the project manager knows what’s going on, that doesn’t mean everyone else does. So send out monthly, weekly, or even daily project updates to ensure everyone involved is informed and up-to-date.

Remember: Project management isn’t just about tools and process. It’s about people. Good project managers develop relationships that ultimately help projects move smoothly.

That’s not to say tools like team collaboration software aren’t helpful. Useful project management software will help your team share ideas and make decisions together.

The savvy project manager knows how to manage those tools, details, and people through meaningful, strategic conversations. They pull the best out of people—making the introvert a little more outspoken while figuring out a way to make the difficult team member a little easier to deal with.

Simple tips for effective project communication

Think about your project management communications in terms of routines. As a project manager, you want to be sure you’re making it easy for your team to access and share information—and ask for more when needed.

Let’s look at some simple ways you can set your team and projects up for success with effective communication. 

1. Set clear project expectations

When you kick off a project, make sure everyone—including both your team and stakeholders—know what’s expected of them throughout the course of the project. You also need to know what everyone else expects from you.

Here are some good ways to do this:

  • Develop your project purpose. This is your team’s mission statement, the “why” behind everything you’re doing on this project.
  • Set project goals. Once you have the purpose in place, you can realistically set your goals for the project. What are the primary indicators of success?  
  • Determine the key players. Which team members and stakeholders need to be involved and to what extent? Who should be at all the meetings, and who should only be involved from an approval standpoint? Does everyone understand their roles? Use a Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed (RACI) chart to map task roles and responsibilities.
  • Document your project plan, and review it regularly. Your plan should act as the center of all project communication. Make sure your team and stakeholders have easy access to your plan so they can update and track progress every step of the way.
  • Discuss task dependencies and how they’ll be met (or not). Make sure to look for potential roadblocks and risks along the way. On top of that, each team member should know what needs to be done before they get started on their task.
  • Be realistic on time and scale. Deliver what you say you’re going to deliver. And, remember the cardinal rule of communication in project management—don’t overpromise!
  • Adjust when needed. Just like most things in life, a project probably won’t go like you plan. Be flexible enough and honest with your team to adjust on the fly when needed.

The most important thing is to get the details on the table and ask: What does success and failure look like on this project?

When you’re honest about what a project win looks like—whether it’s on the administrative end or through frontline project management communications—you’ll have a much easier time setting (and resetting) expectations as work progresses. 

2. Discuss project deliverables

If you’re not actively checking in on your deliverables and reviewing them as a team, you’re missing a huge opportunity to collaborate and build a stronger product. When outlining your plan, make sure you’ve built in time to review, discuss, and critique your team deliverables.

This generates more confidence in what you’re building and will also keep team members accountable for project decisions. By just having a short review and discussion, you’re taking steps to eliminate a risk that a current deliverable will have a negative impact on your scope later on.

3. Conduct status meetings

Regularly hold status meetings—otherwise known as scrums or standups. These brief get-togethers are necessary to keep everyone informed about progress and blockers. Decide together if you want these meetings to be daily (15 minutes) or weekly (50 minutes).

Productive meetings will include:

  • Designated note-taker
  • Written agenda
  • Updated status report
  • Actionable next steps and goals
  • Post-meeting recaps to keep all meeting attendees accountable
  • A scheduled next meeting

Keep stakeholders in the know as well so they’re seeing progress and know where they fit in the process. 

TeamGantt’s Project Health Report is a great tool for communicating project status, as it provides a snapshot of what’s going well, what’s running behind, and what’s overdue. Share it in meetings with your team and stakeholders so you can work together to ensure your project stays on track.

TeamGantt project health report showing tasks that are ok, behind, or overdue

4. Ask questions

Being a project manager requires you to be inquisitive—you have to understand processes, people, and deliverables. Chances are, you’ll work with someone who comes up with a new way of working or takes a new spin on something you’re working on. That’s awesome! Just make sure you understand it—and that you can articulate the what, why, when, and how of that new thing.

Most important, never be afraid to ask your team questions. In the end, it’s a win-win situation for you and your team because the more you understand the work, the easier it is for you to advocate for it with stakeholders—or plan for similar activities in future projects.

You set the tone for effective communication

Bottom line: No matter what you do, be open to discussing how you communicate with your team. You want to know what’s best for the project while also being open and willing to adapt if that will set a tone of positive collaboration.

All that together will lead to success. You can count on it.

Good planning leads to better project communication

A clear and collaborative project plan is your best tool for communicating and tracking all the details, deadlines, and to-dos that will lead your team and project to success. 

Check out our Plan Up education hub for free resources to help you build solid project plans and get buy-in from your team and stakeholders. 

Download our free Guide to Project Planning, plus simple scripts to help you make the case for planning. And sign up for our free class to learn how to create and sell a winning project plan. 

Start planning better today!

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