Some people think that being a project manager is all about sticking your nose in a set of project plans and setting milestones and such like. This is certainly an essential part of the role but it is far from being the only one.
Another area of the job you will want to spend a lot of time on in is the communication. This is an important aspect of the project management role for the following reasons.
A Lot of Stakeholders and Team Members
Even the most modest project will tend to have a number of people who need to know about its progress and about any issues which crop up during it. Modern projects also often have the added complication of having remote team workers and stakeholders scattered all over the globe. Without a solid communication strategy it simply isn’t possible to keep everyone up to date and informed. Don’t forget that the stakeholders need to sign the whole thing off when it is finished, so there is no point in alienating them before then.
A Changeable Situation
Projects are by their very nature fluid and ever changing pieces of work. If they weren’t then you could simply say what you are going to do and then advise everyone once it is finished. Instead of this you need to consider the fact that the there will be changes and challenges all the way until the end. By keeping the team and the stakeholders fully up to date there will be no nasty surprises waiting for them to discover later on.
A Lot of Planning
At the start of the project there will be a project plan drawn up and you as the project manager will do your very best to stick to it. However, it will be filled with a lot of interdependencies and you won’t be able to control all of them. This means that everyone who has a hand in the process needs to know whether the project is on target or not. For example, if you are designing a new process you will probably need to arrange for some staff training to be given and a new staff manual to be written. There are sure to be a number of different people involved in that work and you need to co-ordinate everything so that each job is carried out at the right time. This would be pretty much impossible if you tried to work in isolation without either inward or outward communication.
A High Degree of Transparency
There are many business people who don’t really like to see project work getting carried out on their area. In a lot of cases and to some degree I think this is because they are comfortable with their current situations and don’t want to see any changes upsetting the apple cart and complicating their lives. However, there are also those people who are openly hostile to the idea of a project because they fear that they will get lumbered with something which they don’t want or need. Hopefully you won’t come across any of these people in your projects, but if you do then the best approach is to simply carry out all of the work in the most transparent way possible. Even if the stakeholders are open and helpful you will want to make sure that you are completely transparent in what you do for them.
Things can go wrong in any project and project managers can make mistakes or wrong assumptions. If you are working with a limited amount of communication then it could be too late before you notice this. On the other hand, if you keep the lines of communication open then you stand a much better chance of finding and resolving problems before it is too late. You certainly don’t want to fall into the trap of believing that you know everything or that you don’t want people picking holes in your work. Projects are pieces of work which can benefit immensely from having as many pairs of eyes as possible focusing on them. Anyone who points out a new risk, a false assumption or a mistake is helping you resolve an issue before it becomes too late to effectively deal with it. This means that it is really in your interests to get information out to them and find out whether there any faults in your thinking or not. An early warning can save you a lot of trouble, and effective communication is the best way of achieving it.