The importance of good communication in your projects is something which I can’t overstate. If you want to make a success of your time in the project manager role then this is one issue you simply can’t afford to overlook.
There are some common pitfalls here and it is worth taking some time to think about them.
Not Enough Communication
You need to remember that there are sure to be a lot of people involved in the project who rely on you for updates and information. You may be extremely busy on other things but you can’t afford to neglect the need to provide accurate and timely communication. If you don’t do this then you run of risk of leaving people out of the loop and getting them frustrated. This is why it is so important that one of your first steps should be to get a contact list together for meetings and emails. These are the people who you want to keep up to date with all of the developments. As time goes on the contact list may evolve but you don’t need to slow down the frequency of communication, as you still need to keep them fully informed.
The Wrong Kind of Communication
Sending out lots of emails on a regular basis is fine but it shouldn’t be your only communication method, should it? By the same token, you don’t want to rely purely on meetings or phone calls. The key is in getting the right sort of method in use at the correct time. You should look to clarify this at the start of the project and get everyone’s agreement on what you are going to do. Personally, I like to stick to a set schedule which sees me, for example, holding project meetings every second Tuesday and sending out email updates ever Friday morning. As long as you get your point across in a way which everyone understands there should be no problem.
Too Much Communication
After I have gone on about how important the communication is you might find it strange to see that it is possible to send out too much of the stuff. This is simply because you don’t want to drown your team members and stakeholders in too many papers or tie them up in endless meetings. What you need to do is find the right level. There is clearly no point having meetings every day but would once a week be enough or can you push it out to once every two weeks until things start moving more quickly? Try and get into the habit of looking ahead and resolving problem as soon as possible, to avoid you being tempted to call meetings when the issues occur.
Directed at the Wrong People
Who are you talking to in your communications? The main part of your audience will be made up of the stakeholders, and so it should be. The work to define who you need to speak to is that which I mentioned in an earlier point and it needs to be done early on in the project. If you start inviting the wrong people to your meetings then it can cause havoc. Apart from anything else no one will have the right authority or experience to sign off anything you need them to agree to. It is best to include more names on your contact list than you think you need and let them tell you if they don’t need to receive invites or updates. You certainly don’t want people chasing you and asking why they aren’t on your list.
Not Positive Enough
One of the less tangible tasks of the project manager is to create a positive feeling about the piece of work. There are various ways of doing this and sending out positive, upbeat communication is one of the best ones. This doesn’t mean that you need to tell lies but you can put a better spin on the news you give out. Of course, there might come a time when you hit some serious problems in the project. In this case you need to give out all of the necessary information as soon as possible, to allow everyone involved the chance to help you get it back on track again. However, in general terms it is definitely worth being upbeat and trying to get everyone feeling good about what you are doing and how the results will be worth waiting for.
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