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Communications Management

Communications Management includes the processes to ensure timely and effective planning, collection and distribution, storage and retrieval, management, control, monitoring, and distribution of project information.

Communications Management consists of the following processes. See also Knowledge Areas - Communications.

Process Project Phase
  Plan communications   Planning
  Manage communications   Executing
  Control communications   Monitoring & Controlling

StrotherMartin

"What we've got here is failure to communicate."   Cool Hand Luke

Plan Communications

Communications planning consists of developing an appropriate approach for communications based on stakeholder’s needs and requirements and available organizational assets.

Exerpt from WRALtechwire.com:

"Without effective communication, projects will fail.

It is estimated that approximately 90% of a Project Manager's time is spent communicating. Project work requires constant communication with participants such as Sponsors, Vendors, Team Members, Customers, and any others impacted by the results of the project initiative.

Without effective communication, it is difficult to assess progress, issues, risks, participation and engagement of team members.

Project managers typically represent the focal point for receiving and initiating communications; however, all project participants have the responsibility of communicating with each other as well as the project manager.

Every project should have a Communication Plan that represents the "standards" for communicating among the stakeholders (who gets what and when). Effective communication is an ongoing part of the project."

According to one survey conducted by BULL, a French computer manufacturer, 40% of projects fail due to poor communications.

According to Computer World, communications is number 1 reason for project failures.

And here's another interesting article from Smartdraw citing poor communications as reason why projects fail.

So hopefully you are beginning to understand the importance of effective communications. Effective communications is the result of proactive planning. A project manager must understand not only the business requirements which the project will fullfill, but also the communication requirements of their stakeholders.

Manage Communications

Managing communications is the process of creating, collecting, storing, retrieving and distribution of project information as per the communications management plan.

An essential key to successful communications is asking stakeholders what they need communicated to them. And then follow through and provide it to them. I have heard many new project managers complain of "back seat drivers" on their projects, always going around them asking team members for status (ie, asking "are we there yet?").

I suspect the reason for this is that many project managers act as if project status is top secret classified information that only the privileged few with top secret clearance can receive. Consider that the project is operating on a "need to know" basis, and your stakeholders really need to know. Mark it as confidential if you are so inclined (or if it is appropriate because you are actually dealing with confidential or sensitive data), but send out accurate and timely communications on a regular basis.

By managing the work and reporting the progress regularly to stakeholders, you will avoid the "back seat driver" syndrome.

Another benefit of this is that you will create the environment for the team to do their job uninterrupted without numerous disruptions from various stakeholders asking for status updates because you fail to sufficiently provide updates. If this is happening on your project, know this. It is the project manager's fault.

I'll share a story from my career.

In my colleague's haste to leave the office for vacation, she failed to update a stakeholder on a critical deliverable which was due at the end of the day. I happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and became the unintended recipient of his frustration. He was extremely agitated and looking for anyone who could give him an update. I was able to get an update for him in less than 5 minutes and he had the information he needed and the assurance that his deliverable was on target. For something that took so little time and effort, it created alot of unnecessary stress, frustration, and ill will. So ask yourself, is it worth it?

It is remarkable how many failing projects that I have seen rescued throughout my career by improving communications and reporting. In many cases, beginning project managers did not understand their role and were not collecting or disseminating the information accurately or in a timely fashion. The work was in fact being completed. However, it was not being managed, thus timely handoffs (ie, for dependent tasks) were not occurring between project team members. Nor was there any evidence of progress being presented to stakeholders. Therefore, stakeholders had the perception that the project was way behind schedule and they reported as such to their management. Of course, this causes a rippling effect of escalations. As soon as an experienced project manager reigned in and managed the team and got a handle on the work actually being accomplished, status was adjusted to accurately reflect accomplishment, handoffs between project team members occurred, and the project quickly was back on track. Performance reports present evidence of the work. Without them, how will anyone really know what is being accomplished along the way? The team works hard. It's your job as project manager to ensure this is reflected in your performance reports.

Performance Report Types

The performance reporting process collects and distributes performance information, such as project scope, schedule, cost, quality, risk, and procurement.

There are various performance reports available for use depending on the type of information you need to report.

Communications Channels

As more people join the team, communications become more complex. Communication channels grow exponentially. Communication channels are calculated using the following forumula, where N = number of people.

        [N(N-1)]/2]

if you have a team of 5 people, then there are 10 communication channels.

        [5(5-1)]/2 = 5(4)/2 = 20/2 = 10

Communications Methods

To achieve clear and accurate communications, communications must be handled in structured manner and appropriate method used based on circumstance and need. The following are the communication methods:

Effective Meetings

      Tips for Leading Effective Meetings

Effective Listening

Hemingway

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."   Ernest Hemingway

A recent Internet survey found that Effective Listening is one of the most essential interpersonal skills for successful project leaders.





Control Communications

Control Communications is the process of monitoring and controlling communications throughout the entire life cycle of the project.

Additional Information

Visit the Project Communications Bookshelf to search for books available for purchase.

"Principles of Constructive Communication" By Dave Wakeman for the Program and Project Community of Practice (PPMCoP).

"Effective Communications" as published in Project Times, a PMI Registered Education Provider (REP).

"Managing 'Back Seat Drivers'" as published in Way2PM.com, a PMI Registered Education Provider (REP).

Communications Management on Wikipedia

Communications Management Sample Questions

Real World Project Management: Communications

Obstacles to Project Communications


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