Research suggests that project managers spend almost 90% of their typical day communicating. They are always communicating the project details to ensure it is delivered within the agreed scope, budget, and time-frame regardless of the complexity. When communicating with team members, other stakeholders, and, possibly, other project managers, the issues addressed, and communication tools may vary. However, the proper communication principles remain the same.
To communicate successfully, there are five points to remember:
First, on perspective. See the project with their eyes. Be aware how each stakeholder is slightly different from the others. For instance, when you’re communicating with a sponsor, you would need to think about how the project is worth their funding. With the management team, think about how the deliverables directly and indirectly impact the business. With the customer, think about how the final products enhance their life. Who you’re communicating with determines the level of details to reveal and how they are delivered.
Second, on structure. Structure the information in a logical manner with the bottom line upfront. Next, include a summary. Follow with detailed data and other information to back up the bottom line. Be prepared to answer questions that may follow. Whenever possible, take note of possible “frequently asked questions” and practice the answers beforehand. Well-structured information can be a project manager’s lifesaver when dealing with complicated issues.
Third, on brevity and simplicity. Deliver information in a well-structured manner and concisely using simple and short sentences. Focus on being clear on the what-when-where-why-and-how with an introduction-body-conclusion structure. Refrain from using complex sentences with multiple ideas. It may take longer to write short and clear sentences than long and winding ones. However, it will be worth the time because most people are busy and need to grasp the information immediately. Use positive sentences as much as possible to bring up a neutral tone.
Fourth, on proactivity. Sometimes a message triggers questions on existing or possible problems. Be open to such communication and be honest with the possible solutions. Include the pros and cons when delivering the anticipated scenarios. However, if you’re not sure about the solutions, promise them an answer after you’ve found it. Anticipate good and bad responses with grace and tactfulness.
Fifth, on meaningfulness. As much as you want to sound motivating, focus on delivering the message to ensure project success. Sometimes you would need to deliver “bad news,” such as incomplete tasks and less-than-perfect execution. Make sure to be as transparent as possible while sounding neutral with a can-do attitude. A part of your job is communicating honestly, openly, and positively despite the situation.
Last but not least, a project manager must be a good listener with a willingness to understand the issue being conveyed and be ready to take the next step. Combined with using the proper perspective, carefully structuring the information, being brief and simple, being proactive, and ensuring meaningfulness of the message, managing a project professionally is highly achievable. After all, proper communication is key in the process of developing successful outcomes.