Taking up a project manager or leader role may sound like a cushy job but it is not as easy as it sounds because with bigger roles, come bigger responsibilities. The practices that you acquire from books, classrooms and media should not only be used theoretically but should also be applied practically through live projects or assigned tasks. Any delays and issues to the project makes the project manager questionable to the top management and will have to state counter justifications and action plans.

Many of the working communities undergo the same pain whether it is a UX designer, programmer, salesperson, or customer support representative. This book is going to unlock those secrets which will make sure that your projects do not derail or go off track that easily. Even complex projects can be easily broken down and executed through the right communication plan. A strict follow-up of these processes mentioned here will help you manage communication and also learn to use the apt type of communication according to the circumstances, both in your work life as well as your personal life.

One common issue we have while running projects is that there is a lot of information that needs to be communicated and the stakeholders might receive the same information but are still unable to figure out what the true objective of the project is. Another issue is that they may not get enough information i.e, they may not be updated with all the relevant information involving the project. Not all or key stakeholders require all the information but it is important to incorporate important details relevant to their role in the project. So, different stakeholder groups or program teams will require different levels and modes of updates on the project status. It is important to know the communications requirement according to the current and future state of a project and communicate it in a right and consistent manner and also have a knowledge about project business justification analysis.

Communication Strategy in Project Management

Given below is a basic program communication strategy in the most linear form. The model basically consists of two parties classified as:

1. Information Sender

2. Information Receiver

Basic program communication strategy

The above two categories are bidirectional in nature. Information receivers are the ones who become information senders, once they act on the information they receive and vice versa. It can be setting up a meeting, answering a question, a status update of the task or activity assigned etc. Below are the three steps of the communication model flow:

Three steps of the communication model flow

Noise tends to play a role in contributing towards loss of information during transmission. A typical example to explain what noise is; when the world started work from home during the pandemic in 2020. A lot of project meetings happen through online platforms and quite frequently during a call the internet might have some glitches or the laptop microphone may stop working, making a barrier to the flow of information. This creates a gap or misunderstanding.

Communication Methods in Project Management

Upon understanding different types of communication, it is equally important to learn about various communication methods.

1. Interactive Communication

As the name suggests this method covers the interaction between two or more people where the sender sends the information and the receiver receives and responds to the information given by the sender. The examples we saw in the formal verbal communications process fall under this category.

2. Pull Communication

Pull method focuses on the sender placing the information in a common folder or location and the recipients are supposed to use the information when needed can be retrieved from the stored location. An example of this type of communication planning, is the use of sharepoints, google drives, iCloud, library.

3. Push Communication

Unlike interactive communication, push methods focus on sending the information to the receiver with no expectation of receiving any responses. This is kind of one way information streaming. The examples we saw in formal written communication fall under this category.

3C’s of Communication

3C’s of communication to enhance the likelihood of correct understanding and interpretation of messages and execute responses and actions for effective project communication management as well.

1. Concise writing

As a project manager, there will be numerous emails and messages that come in and get responded all throughout the project cycle. A proper knowledge management i.e, in the form of concise messages can help readers to not spend more time hunting for key points & figuring out the main body of the message. This can also leave a good impression about you plus a response can be expected early.

2. Correct grammar and wordings

This day of business has become more reliant on messages, reports, case studies, books, emails that are being shared to make an understanding and documentation. To make an impact as a first impression it is important to use correct grammar and apt wordings. This allows readers to earn respect and get their attention with the appropriate use of punctuations.

3. Clear and logical

This is a usual scenario for most of us. We always double or triple check our messages to make sure it is clear and logical to the point that needs to be communicated. Most of us undergo this process of drafting, reading and redrafting until we get the message right according to the thoughts of what we have in mind.

Advantages by using 3C’s together for effective communication are:

– Avoids Confusion

– Message becomes effective

– Avoid risk of any legal actions

– Productivity increases.

Price of poor communication

Now we saw the statistics details and reports of how an effective and frequent communication of information flow helps organizations achieve better results. So when applied properly in your personal life also, it is going to yield the same results. For a better outlook let me introduce the below graph on how communications go under each phase of project or life.

Poor vs Effective Communications

Project life cycle is the classification of how a project runs through different cycles that is the definition or initiation phase, planning phase, execution phase, controlling monitoring phase and finally the closure phase. A detailed outlook into these phases and knowledge areas are being taught in my webinars and courses which you can find towards the conclusion of the book. Project impact is simply the impact of poor communication being experienced. Here poor communication is denoted with a blue series line, and effective communication is denoted with an orange series line.

Where and how does poor communication impact a project?

Good try, most of you might have got this through. Poor communication impacts the project costs, schedule, quality of the product or service that is being worked upon which in turn proves customer dissatisfaction. If we look into the graph we can understand that through each project phase with poor communication there is a higher impact from a scale of 0 to 5.

With effective communication there is a linear plot, I am not being very optimistic like others where you can get an exact opposite impact on the project with effective communications. It is practically proven with the above statistics in figure 5.1 as it has to be followed as a culture to create that new experience and imbibe a new belief of decreasing the project impact.

Information flow pyramid

It is important to know the right audience. In personal life and projects we have to adjust the language depending upon the audience, since not everyone can understand the same terminologies or they may not possess the same processing decoding capability. It is not the same way you speak at home or in the office. In office you will have to use more technical terminologies whereas at home you tend to use a more casual or simpler form of language.

Our focus now will be to set up levels according to the complexity of the project management communication plan that needs to be shared to the stakeholder groups. We will be considering both internal and external stakeholders into a pyramid with respect to organisational hierarchy, power and interest to impact the project.

Information flow pyramid

Understanding how effectively communications with stakeholders about a project must flow in a pyramid with respect to the hierarchy level of the stakeholders is shown in the above image. We can have three steps starting from upward communication, which is from the bottom of the pyramid that explains the type of information package to be communicated.

As you can see, the letters become smaller as you move up from the bottom of the pyramid to the top. This symbolises the information package data becoming lighter for communication and vice versa when it is downward communication.

Steps involved in Effective stakeholder communication

Step 1: At this stage the stakeholders consist of core project team members – representing the internal and external organisations who need to be updated with all status of the progress of the projects for executions.

Step 2: At this stage the stakeholders consist of more members – representing business units, external and internal organisations. This level does have more people than the previous level and needs more information and details about the project than the previous level to make a decision, understand and resolve any risks, or approve a change request based on the recommendations from the project team.

Step 3: This stage of stakeholders consists of fewer members – sponsors, customers, end users, top executives, shareholders who carry the vision, mission and goals of a company. This level needs communication and updates in a very concise manner and only need to focus on the big picture of the project. An update of project progress going on track with a simple dashboard is more than enough to understand how the performance is getting contributed to the company key performance indicators.

As we understand the size and level of the information package that is needed to communicate on different levels, it is important to define a template on how to prepare this package. There are 4 main questions to be answered in order to determine the information package for each level, starting with:

a. Who is your target audience?

Identify at which level your target audience falls under in the above pyramid.

b. What needs to be communicated?

Once you determine the target audience, it is important to decide what information they need : High level status report, Red Yellow Green dashboards, Project numbers, budget to make decisions, dependencies, schedule and risk detail.

c. When does the information need to be communicated?

Determining the frequency of information to be shared is important. Decide whether the information is to be communicated on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. You can also do this by creating a project communication plan. And also depending on the audience, the level of support and decisions needed from each level.

d. How should the information be communicated?

Deciding on creating how the information needs to be communicated whether through reports, email, intranet status dashboard, online systems, video meetings, video calls or phone calls.

Project manager vs Information flow pyramid

Being a project manager, it is important to communicate the needed information to receive a response of information that is required to carry forward an effective project management.

This can be executed with the help of a proper project communication management plan as well. As shown in the below image, communication flows in both directions to each step of the pyramid from a project manager.

Project manager vs Information flow pyramid

As we outlined the information package with the above four questions that we would be giving to the targeted audiences, it is important to also decide what is to be received from these targeted audiences as information to continue with the project.

As in step 1 from the project team, the project manager needs to understand where are we on the task and activities, are there any bottlenecks that need support, are there any risks anticipated, any approvals needed from the concerned authorities.

As in step 2 from the steering committee or change control board, the project manager needs to receive important and timely decisions and approval that are needed for the project to proceed.

As in step 3 from the sponsor, customers, top executives, the PM needs to receive important decisions like if the project manager internal project is in the same priority, are there any changes in the business that may impact the current execution of the project, are there any strategic decisions impacting the project to proceed.

The secret of possessing effective communication skills is to stay in touch effectively and proactively on the flow of information throughout a project life cycle, which will eventually lead to success.

Author: Vimal is a certified PMP and a seasoned Project Manager. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Further Reading: PMP vs Scrum