Effective Communication Tips for Projects

By Chris Dunne
As we all know any good story has a beginning, middle, and an end. So to it is with projects, and as with stories, our ability to communicate effectively as project managers, can mean the difference between project failure and success. The first step towards communicating effectively in a project begins with identifying the sphere of participants, and what paths to follow to ensure the receive the right information at the right time. At the least, those categories of influence will include not only the project stakeholders, but, of course the internal team and vendors— as well as the management hierarchy in an organisation, according to Gina Lijoi’s overview on ProjectSmart.co.uk entitled, “Effective Project Communications.” Traditionally, the blatant methods of communications like engaging with stakeholders verbally include the daily use of email, “charters and project plans, addenda and status reports.” But even regular use of these mediums does not necessarily mean our communications are clear. The following tips should help maintain clear communications:

  1. Let People Know

What’s important for all the stakeholders and participants in the line of communications is a simple statement embracing a “contact strategy” outlining the method of team and client communications and frequency of contact. For example, a flow chart might very well be used to indicate which days of the week you will be in touch with the client; the follow up might entail a summary of the call as it relates to project expectations and course of action.

  1. Repeating Never Hurts

How often do we remember complex details when they are presented to us verbally? Certainly it might take a second run at it, but most likely a confirmation results once the details are established in written form and provided to project team members with all “actionable items and decisions” presented, including that all-important trail of paper of a “critical path” should details get submerged along the way

  1. Get to the Point

Don’t go into lengthy background information, but keep it brief and specific; always, the reader is looking for those key points condensed as follows:

  • Has anything I need to know about happened?
  • How does it affect me?
  • Am I expected to do something and when?”

Whilst communication of this type is important to ensure a smooth running project, the communication of the project results, or more precisely what was learned from the project, is often overlooked.

Projects should be formally closed, and a step in this closing process is the debriefing, also called the project post-mortem. It seems almost counter-intuitive to require the Team to submit to a debriefing; after-all, everyone has ‘mentally’ moved on to the next assignment. But the project team needs to be convinced they have much to learn from this process – they need to critically assess the good, the bad and, yes, the really ugly stuff.

Often it is a good idea to have an independent person conduct the review, something that Daysha Consulting has a lot of experience with. Contact us if you need more information.

Jason W. Womack’s , “Three Tips for Boosting Productivity With Project Debriefing,” on the Entrepreuner.com website, is not asking for anyone to become the company’s taskmaster with whip-in-hand. More to the point, going over all the elements affecting both the successful and failed projects will help in 1) pointing out the mistakes and 2) prepare for better efficiencies in the next go round. It’s almost a cliche in business vocabulary to say you are following or recommending “best practices.” But in reality there are no ‘universal best practices’ – the best practices are those that work for your organization. According to Womack the project debriefing is all about recognising these practices,  learning these steps and sharing them within the Team and new members coming onboard for the next project. So, start your de-briefing shortly after the project completion, and consider these tips aimed at improving overall methodologies; a summary of his overview includes:

  1. Bring a “learner’s mindset” to the table. Patting one another on the back and saying you’ll all do better next time, or handing out ‘atta boys’ doesn’t do justice to the team philosophy and goals. Generally, the mood and momentum shifts to the next project, and team members may balk at what could be a painful look-back. Keep an open mind.
  2. Checklist for post-projects.  Sounds almost too obvious that notes should be made and lists prioritized for ‘next time,’ But keep in mind, such categorizing makes up for what can be termed our short comings of our memories.
  3. Think ‘Communicate’ when debriefing. We don’t just mean having a conversation or a presentation. Its important to take into account the auditory, visual and kinesthetics of the teams communication i.e. we need to ‘read’ the group members and the characteristic ways they communicate.

Before you start on that next important project, or when you finish your current project, why not contact us, to discuss how we could help you learn from past mistakes and successes.

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