This Is Where PM Spends Most Time: Managing Project Communications


Communication Management Knowledge Area “The art of communication is the language of leadership.”

– James Humes

According to a web poll conducted by CompTIA, nearly 28% of more than 1000 respondents said that poor communication is the number one reason causing IT projects to fail!

Why?

The reason is quite simple. It is easy to commit a mistake in communication without immediately seeing the impact. For instance, a customer may not react immediately to an angry email that one of the team members sent, but may vent his anger when it is time to renew the contract.

Consider these cases where communication may break –

  • It is easy to overlook an important email that you have received, amongst 100 other mails
  • Sometimes legitimate and important emails land in junk/spam folder due to the intelligence built into mailing systems
  • In a meeting held after lunch, it is not hard to miss an important point made by someone, while the mind is thinking of a cup of extra-strong coffee
  • While writing email some people have the practice of manually adding recipients’ email ids, instead of using a distribution list. This might mean that an important developer is missed out in the communication creating havoc in his schedule.
  • In a Communication Plan, one of the important stakeholder might be inadvertently missed out from all of the communication channels
  • Excessive communication is as bad as missed communication, because people tend to miss important piece of communication amongst the ‘noise’

Most of the times the result can be disastrous and can have immediate impact on one or more of the project constraints.

Having said this, the good news is that communication related project management activities are pretty straight forward and easy to carry out, as you can see in the mind map below.

Here is a very brief look at all the 3 core project management activities –

  • Planning For Managing Communications  is the project management activities to chalk out strategies for effective and efficient communication of project progress and other relevant information to all the stakeholders. These communication needs are understood from the stakeholder register.
  • Managing Project Communications is about collecting status and performance information and forecasts for scope, schedule, quality, cost and distributing to relevant stakeholders. These are done as per the communication plan prepared during Plan Communications Management process
  • Overseeing and Controlling Communications is about monitoring and controlling communication throughout the project life cycle, looking for any issues and addressing them proactively.

Let me share a quick little story about my brush with communication issue several years ago. In one of my projects we made project releases typically on Fridays. On reaching one of the much awaited releases, I sent out a release-note email to all the stakeholders. But I missed including the chief of Engineering department on client’s team on the mail. What do you think happened?

He waited for the mail well into his day and then called up 2 in the morning my time (due to timezone difference), when I realized my mistake and ran to office across the town to resend the mail. That is also when I learned my lesson and created a email distribution list for each of communication types on the project.

Do you have any such communication related incidents to share from your experience?

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