More than half of what an organization spends on a project is at risk due to ineffective communication, warn the authors of PMI’s Pulse of the Profession In-Depth Report: The Essential Role of Communications. Over 50% of the project managers surveyed by PMI researchers nominate effective communication as the most important factor that contributes to any project’s success.
Since the project manager is the main person responsible for communication, a project manager that engages in ineffective communications endangers the project. Communicating effectively with all stakeholders starts with understanding what effective communication is and who the project’s stakeholders are.
Defining Effective Communication
“Effective communication takes place only when the listener clearly understands the message that the speaker intended to send.” (University of Pittsburgh)
“Effective communication is about getting your message across.” (Nature)
Effective communication is transmitting a message the receiver clearly understands. Since most messages a project manager transmits are time-sensitive, effective communication in the project management realm also implies timely transmission and reception of the correct message.
Tips for Communicating Effectively with Stakeholders
Identify all stakeholders of your project, starting with the team members, project sponsor, and the customers. Rank their communication needs and define a communication plan. Who and when do you need to update? Whose feedback do you need and how often do you need it? Since stakeholders in each category have different levels of technical expertise, pay attention to the language complexity. For example, you can use technical jargon with your team members, but you might need to convey the same message for the customer in layman’s terms so that you do not bury the message in jargon.
Besides transmitting the right message to the right stakeholder at the right time, effective communication implies effective listening to the stakeholders. Ensure there is no misunderstanding in the messages you get from the stakeholders just like you ensure they understand your messages.
Formal and Informal Communication
A good way to ensure effective communication with your team members is to promote informal communication besides reports, status updates, or planned team meetings that are part of your communication plan. Ensure all your team members can openly express their opinions. Let them know your door is always open for informal discussions about the project. And when they do have questions, give comprehensive answers.
Anticipate Communication Needs
Anticipate the main stakeholders’ communication needs. Make sure you do not overflow them with information. For stakeholders that do not require too many updates or are only interested in the project’s deliverables, establish passive communication ways, like a protected blog, newsletters, or an intranet, where stakeholders can find out more about the project when, and if, they choose to become more interested in what you are doing. Be ready to modify communication plan if you find out that you are not communicating effectively with all stakeholders.
A Final Tip
To communicate effectively, put yourself in the shoes of the stakeholders. Establish what level of detail they require in the information they get from you and how often they need updates.
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