Chapter 8 – Role of Communication

8.2. Role of Communication in PM

Woman hanging sticky notes on a wall in a meeting.
Photo by Jason Goodman licensed under the Unsplash License

Communication Management

Communication management is about keeping everybody in the loop. The communications planning process defines the types of information you will deliver, who will receive it, the format for communicating it, and the timing of its release and distribution. A great deal of a project manager’s job is spent on communication, so it’s important to make sure everybody gets the right message at the right time.

The first step in defining your communication plan is figuring out what kind of communication your stakeholders need from the project so they can make good decisions. This is called the communications requirements analysis. Your project will produce a lot of information. You do not want to overwhelm your stakeholders with all of it. Your job is to figure out what they feel is valuable. Furthermore, communicating valuable information doesn’t mean you always paint a rosy picture.

Communications to stakeholders may consist of either good news or bad news. The point is that you don’t want to bury stakeholders in too much information but you do want to give them enough so that they’re informed and can make appropriate decisions.

Communication Methods

Communications technology has a major impact on how you keep people in the loop. Methods of communicating can take many forms, such as written reports, conversations, emails, formal status reports, meetings, online databases, online schedules, and project websites. You should consider several factors before deciding what methods you’ll choose to transfer information. The timing of the information exchange or need for updates is the first factor. Do you need to procure new technology or systems, or are there systems already in place that will work? The technologies available to you should figure into your plan of how you will keep everyone notified of project status and issues. Staff experience with the technology is another factor. Are the project team members and stakeholders experienced at using this technology, or will you need to train them?

Finally, consider the duration of the project and the project environment. Will the technology you’re choosing work throughout the life of the project or will it have to be upgraded or updated at some point? And how does the project team function? Are they located together or spread out across several campuses or locations? The answers to these questions should be documented in the communication plan.

All projects require a sound communication plan, but not all projects will have the same types of communication or the same methods for distributing the information. The communication plan documents the types of information needs the stakeholders to have, when the information should be distributed, and how the information will be delivered.

Types of Information Communicated

The types of information you will communicate typically include project status, project scope statements and updates, project baseline information, risks, action items, performance measures, project acceptance, and so on. It’s important that the information needs of the stakeholders be determined as early in the planning phase of the project management life cycle as possible so that as you and your team develop project planning documents, you already know who should receive copies of them and how they should be delivered.

HR in Focus: Human Resources and Communication

For Human Resources Specialists communication is a two-way process to disseminate information, plans, problems, and solutions.  When communication is flowing freely and clearly, the project team has a clear understanding of the project goals, outcomes, and tasks.  Human Resources may be involved as part of the team and facilitate good communication styles, protocols and skill development through communication training.

Some considerations that Human Resources may discuss with team members are planning ahead what needs to be said (write it down), deliver the message about the facts (not feelings), send the message and be specific, send messages in a timely manner, be direct, and above all, learn to listen to others.

Human Resources may offer workshops to the Project Manager and team to develop relationships at the beginning of the project that might include:

  • Social cues and body language
  • Active listening
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Personality Assessments and how it relates to communication
  • Challenges of effective communication
  • Etiquette in the workplace
  • How to avoid roadblocks to effective communication
  • Avoid jargon and prejudices and bias

Human Resources can play a critical role in a project’s team by improving innovation, trust between members, improving the performance of the team, and building a culture of teamwork.