Tired of hearing about poor communication? Try working at it every day!
In their 2018 Pulse of the Profession, PMI reported that 9.9% of every dollar spent on projects is wasted due to poor project performance. That equates to $99 million for every $1 billion invested globally. And what does PMI list among the top 5 reasons for project failure for a second year running? Communication.
Given these statistics, we clearly have a long way to go as Project Managers to improve communication with project teams. To illustrate the importance of doing so, consider the following examples of communication failures that I alone have encountered as a consultant:
- Failure of the Sponsor to convey scope-changing information to the team.
- Failure to advise consultants of new client protocols, which prevented these team members from working – in some cases – for days at a time and, ultimately, set back the project by weeks.
- Failure to inform the Project Manager of changes to the project team.
- Failure to advise the Project Manager of a project being placed on hold by a Sponsor.
Why does poor communication continue to be such a common project pitfall? And how can we support team members in developing sufficient understanding of the project, Sponsors in issuing clear directives to the Project Manager, and Project Managers in knowing what their team members are working on?
If the success of the project is dependent on the project team working collaboratively on an objective, why would anyone on that team allow poor communication to derail such collaboration?
While different communication styles are a given, we can implement certain measures to ensure clear messaging, including the following:
- Standards. Together with the project team, establish communication standards, and document those standards in a communication plan. Include a RACI that details who is responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed with regard to the information to be communicated, and be sure to identify the information required by:
- Project team members, in order to effectively complete their tasks;
- The Project Manager, in order to keep the project moving in the right direction; and
- The project Sponsor and stakeholder groups, in order to understand project progression.
2. Consistency. When communicating to various stakeholders, ensure consistency in the use of terminology, as well as in the timing and format of communications. Doing so solidifies messaging regarding project activities and increases understanding among stakeholders.
3. Comprehension. Know your audience! Avoid using terms, concepts, and acronyms that you have not already defined for them. Many organizations and teams use terminology that is understood only internally. Ask yourself, are you communicating to yourself or to your audience? And be sure to consider your audience when tailoring the message, always with the goal of providing the necessary level of understanding.
4. Followup. Communication is the exchange of understanding. Following up on your message to ensure that your audience understands it is part of your role as a communicator.
You can prevent your project from falling victim to poor communication. By being proactive, you can avoid becoming just another statistic on the project failure front.