6 minutes

The role of the project manager is diverse, but their success relies on one key skill: effective communication. It’s the lifeblood of all project management teams and underpins all skills that are needed to deliver successful projects.

For communication to be effective it must be clear, transparent, and diverse.

So why is communication so crucial to project management?

Communication makes an impact on successful project management. Without it, project management teams can unravel. Things can get lost in translation, deadlines can be forgotten, and important aspects of the project may get missed.

Since collaborative work is crucial to project management, ineffective communication can lead to conflict and a failed delivery. The resolution of the project can end up looking a lot worse than its conception if you’re not careful.

In fact, a report by PMI in 2013 revealed that up to $135m is put at risk for every $1b spent on projects, and 56% of that risk is due to ineffective communication.

This can all be avoided with clearer communication. By being conscious of how information is communicated and what channels are used you can start to harness its full potential. In focusing on communication as a key point for project management, you’ll start to see how useful it is in coordinating and delegating tasks to the right groups.

The first step to clearer communication is understanding the different types of communication that take place in your business:

Upward and downward communication

The main difference between upward and downward communication lies in the hierarchy. While upward communication flows from employees to upper-level management, downward communication flows from the upper-level management to staff.

Communication styles will be different in each case, but what is important is their role in project management. Project managers can’t only be confident in sharing their vision – they must also have value-based leadership skills. Being able to listen and take on feedback (upward communication) is just as important to the success of a project as being the delegator (downward communication).

Internal and external communication

Internal communication focuses on the flow of information between individuals currently working on a project. This could be anything from team members sharing updates via a collaborative software tool to the project manager delegating tasks.

External communication, however, focuses on the flow of information between those working on the project and stakeholders who are not directly involved in project delivery.

Both forms of communication are integral to the project management process, right through from its conception to delivery. Managers must foster a collaborative environment for project members to share information (internal communication) but external communication is just as important.

Stakeholders are defined as those interested in the business, in particular the project that is being undertaken. This can be anyone from the executive board, the press, and even the public (the customers). Without effective external communication, teams will suffer as they won’t have access to the information that makes their project alluring to external influences.

This could be anything from getting feedback on an ongoing project from internal and external customers to presenting ideas to the executive board. Utilizing this communication can also help businesses grow in other areas, enhancing the customer experience (CX) with feedback from the public. 

Encourage your external stakeholders (your customers) to share feedback on the success of your communication as well as project delivery via cloud call center software or any forum that allows for feedback to be shared. 

So how can communication be utilized and optimized across the board to ensure a successful project delivery?

As PM there are a lot of things you can do to improve communication and ensure success:

Set up a communication strategy

Before you even begin your project, set out a clear communication strategy for your team members. The purpose is to outline how information will be generated and to what areas. Think about whether certain communications will be upward and downward or external and internal, tailoring your strategy to suit this.

Think about what information will be relayed to team members at each step of the way, ensuring all are informed.  

Important questions to consider include:

        What are the project goals?

        Who are the key players?

        Which team members are focusing on which aspect of the project?

        What are the deadlines?

        What are potential risks and how can these be mitigated?

Once you’ve answered these questions and set up your communication strategy you can start the step-by-step delegation process. Make clear who will be working on what and any expectations that need to be met.

Use a variety of channels and tools

As remote working becomes the norm, workplace digitalization has become even more important to communications than before. It isn’t enough to just rely on one form of communication or technology to get a message across. As PM you have to be conscious of who your audience is (stakeholders, team members, the executive board) and what channels and forms of communication will suit them best.

Think about all the channels available (in-person meetings and remote, non-verbal, and written communication) and weigh them up. Though one isn’t necessarily better than the other, some will be more effective at relaying information depending on who you’re communicating with.

By tailoring your communication approach and using a variety of channels you’ll be more likely to get your message across clearly. Consider using a variety of tools such as text messaging apps, collaborative work software, and ACD in conjunction with written communications and in-person meetings. 

Be empathetic and understand your team

Being PM doesn’t just mean you get to delegate tasks – you also need to understand and know your team members well. Be conscious of any cultural or language barriers so you can tailor your communications accordingly.

Consider the importance of upward communication and be prepared to take on feedback and listen to your team. This will help foster a healthy, collaborative environment of respect and transparency.

Active listening is just as important to project management as communication and will go a long way toward gaining your team’s respect. Encourage constructive criticism and consider setting up a collaborative software tool where everyone can voice their comments on the ongoing project.

This way you’ll not only improve your project delivery but your role as PM. Take the feedback you’ve been given on projects and your communication skills and include it in your PDP (professional development plan). 

The more you develop and grow as PM the more room there is for growth in your projects.

Provide regular updates

Be sure to update both internal and external sources on the progress of the project. Using a collaborative software tool might help to share any documents and ongoing feedback or changes that need to be made.

Keeping everyone in the loop will help you stay flexible if changes are needed and breed trust within your team. When reporting and providing updates it’s crucial to keep your audience in mind. 

Are you updating a group of stakeholders on the progress of the project or your team members? Certain groups may respond better to different forms of communication (stakeholders might prefer charts and diagrams while your team might prefer a scrum meeting).

Sending out weekly updates on the project will help keep everyone informed and working towards a common goal, maximizing your WFO.

Analyze and monitor your communication strategy

Once you’ve started putting your communication strategy to the test, make sure you monitor it regularly. Projects change and so do your team’s needs and approach; your communication strategy should reflect these changes. 

Ask for feedback to improve your communication strategy and ensure it meets the needs of all in your team (both internal and external). If you do this early enough you might find there are areas of risk you need to pay attention to. By focusing on them from the start you can mitigate these, avoiding conflict in the future.

Communicate once the project is finished

It isn’t enough to just communicate before and during a project – you should also be communicating with your team once the product is delivered. Celebrating the successes and failures is an important part of gaining respect from your team, as well as pinpointing future areas to work on.

There is always room for improvement and growth so making time once the project is finished to go over these areas will set you up for the future. Talking about what went well is just as important, as well as giving credit to all those who worked on a project. 

You want to help foster a healthy, collaborative space in project management where ideas are heard and your team members feel valued.

The importance of communication to project management must not be overlooked. Effective communication is integral to the successful development of a project as well as its delivery. Project management is a collaborative effort, meaning clear and effective communication is crucial at every stage. 

By focusing on the way communication is delivered and received, project management teams will see their projects run smoothly and more efficiently.