Can you imagine managing a project without being able to communicate? Sounds like a nightmare, right?

It would be pretty much impossible—what with all the layers of 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 is dependent on another task, decision, or person.

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

So what are some of the best ways to do that? Let’s walk through it.

Your Communication Strategy Plan

The importance of communication in project management can’t be stressed enough. And every good project starts with a solid communication plan. This is just a basic strategy that details what successful communication will look like on any given project. A well thought-out plan brings team-wide trust and success.

So what’s the best way to put one together?

Thanks for asking. Here are the key components to a well-thought out communication strategy plan:

  • Develop the purpose. This is your team’s mission statement, the “why” behind everything you’re doing on this project.
  • Set the 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?
  • 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 project management–don’t overpromise!
  • Adjust when needed. Just like most things in life, a project won’t probably go like you plan. Be flexible enough and honest with your team to adjust on the fly when needed.

You see, project management isn’t just about tools and process. It’s more about people. Good PMs develop relationships that ultimately help projects move smoothly.

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

The savvy PM 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 a way to make the difficult team member a little easier to deal with.

Top Communication Skills in Project Management

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

We’ve found that the best PMs regularly do the following:

  1. Listen. Effective project managers don’t just wait for their turn to talk. They listen to their team–both the good and the bad–to really understand issues and look for ways to fix them.
  2. Place an emphasis on efficiency over speed. They make sure their team knows that going 10 miles an hour toward a specific destination is much better than going 30 miles an hour in circles.
  3. Ask questions. 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 questions.
  4. Respect their 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. Good PMs send out monthly, weekly, even daily updates in some cases. Everyone involved needs to be informed and up to date.

How Project Managers Successfully Communicate

Think about your project management communications in terms of routines. As a PM, you want to be sure that you’re moving the information flow in a way that’s expected. This allows your team to easily share information and ask for more when needed.

Let’s look at some basic ways to make sure your information is going to and from the right people:

1. Set 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.

Some good ways to do this:

  • Map the project with a Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed (RACI) chart.
  • Discuss your project goals and plan.
  • Discuss what forms of communication you’ll use during the project.

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 the front-line communications—you’ll have a much easier time setting expectations at the beginning.

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 building 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.

Make sure your stakeholders are in the know as well so they’re seeing progress and know where they fit in the process. For more details on status reports, check out Chapter 5 of the Guide to Project Management.

4. Ask Questions

Being a PM 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 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.

The Project Manager Sets the Tone

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.

What tactics do you employ to be a good communicator? Leave a comment and let’s discuss.

Want to spend more time communicating effectively with your team? Try using these 10 tips to automate draining tasks with online gantt charts.

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