Mudassir Iqbal

Communication is an essential part of our daily life, and even more crucial to the success of any project. Although all Project Managers agree that success of a project largely depends on effective communication; regular, concise, clear and most importantly sufficient communication has become a rare commodity.

Yes! It’s an art, but one can definitely learn that with right training and approach.

Project Teams members usually complain about lack of communication during an ongoing project. Failure of effective communication is mostly from the top-down, but it can also be from bottom-up. For an example:

  • The top management fails to convey the vision and purpose of projects clearly hence to motivate the team, or
  • The Project Manager fails to communicate project success as a ‘business success’ in the proper business terminologies and instead dives deep into the technical details, therefore, losing the business support for the project altogether.

Interestingly, everybody understands the importance of communication, while at the same time remaining oblivious to how their communication is being perceived by receivers. The whole team should able to visualize the result in order to work towards a common goal, and this can only be possible with clearly expressing the vision to the team.

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PMI says that project managers spend most of their time on communication, which includes status reports, minutes, presentations and other related activities. The project’s success depends on how effectively and efficiently we use the communication process, which actually covers far more parameters than only selecting the right words. It is risky to assume that information has been received and decoded with the same intent it was sent by the sender, therefore establishing a feedback loop for communication is very important

Communication is a challenging job and even a good communicator cannot say if he is effective and ineffective communication can be one of the main reasons for project failures. Following are some challenges that we usually face on our projects;

  1. The worldwide presence of stakeholders will make it impossible to communicate with them without a solid communication plan and strategy.
  2. Team members usually belong to separate backgrounds and diverse experiences; a good cohesive team can only be formed with good conflict management which requires exceptional communication. You need to work on finding common ground with your team and showing them you are not there only for the project, but also interested in solving personal issues, while at the same time being a good listener when it comes to communication beyond project line.
  3. Changing goalposts, scopes, time, facts, and world situations have a direct impact on whom, what, why, when and how.
  4. The ever-changing technology and communication mediums: should we depend on e-mail, a voice call or just simple IM messaging, or a combination of them? All of these mediums have a different impact on different kinds of people and different environments. Some projects require a lot more face-to-face communication than some project managers think, which ends up being a pitfall for the same project managers.
  5. Understanding your stakeholders: communication can only be successful when you first consider the needs of the listeners.

So, how to face these challenges? There is no recipe for success without its caveats. But, I believe if you follow these very basic rules, you would able to guide yourself in the right direction:

  • Be prepared: Forethought and Foresight for planning for communication are very important. If you are prepared you can communicate a clear and concise message with confidence.
  • Listening: Communication is not only about speaking to and hearing from people. It is about understanding the complete message. And this is only possible when you are present and attentive. You can’t communicate effectively until you understand the incoming message.
  • Non-Verbal Communication: Verbal communication only constitutes 7% of your total communication. Your eyes, your facial expressions, your hand movements and your body should support what you are talking about.
  • Repute, Friendliness, Trust, and Respect: Smile! Trust is earned and can only be done when you are real and consistent in your communication throughout. You need to deliver your words and promises on deadlines.
  • Open-Mindedness: Be flexible and open to new ideas and discussion points. Respect other’s points of view. You have all right to disagree but it doesn’t mean that you need to ‘bulldoze’ the ideas and belittle others based on their thought process.
  • Feedback and Collaboration: Supporting and encouraging each other is part and parcel of a successful team.
  • Training: Consider yourself a coach, not a manager only. Be part of the team. Coaching will help you understand their sentiments and their point of views. Guide them on how to communicate in different scenarios.

In a nutshell, Yes! It is challenging but ignoring it has colossal negative effects.

Enterprises need to realize that they need to invest time and money in getting the communication right with the right training, along with sharing the importance of communication and identifying the risk associated with ineffective or irregular communication. This can be done by preparing communication plans for the organizations and then adopting them for projects religiously.

Last, but not the least: this is everyone’s effort; there is no one person which can make it happen.

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