18 Mar 2021

Your guide to project management communication

Skills, Communication
Your guide to project management communication

Communication is to a project manager, what persuasion is to a lawyer.  

No matter how skilled you are as a project professional, if your communication skills are not up to scratch then you’re going to struggle with project delivery.
 
In fact, the majority of respondents who took part in AIPM’s 2021 Membership Survey listed stakeholder management, communication, and leadership as the top skills required to be a project manager today.
 
That’s why we have created this guide to take you through the strategies for managing stakeholder relationships effectively, the types of communication styles, and how to draft an effective communication plan.

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNICATION IN PROJECT MANAGEMENT

As you progress in your project management career, it will soon become clear that one of the essential project management skills is the ability to obtain stakeholder by in.
 
Laying the foundations for effective communication with your stakeholders should happen at the very beginning of the project, through a well thought out communication plan. This can either be a separate document or integrated into your project management plan.

When you’re creating a plan for how you will communicate, consider the different stakeholders related to the project and the role each will play in getting your project to completion. Good communication with stakeholders will ensure there is an awareness of:

  1. The purpose of the project, such as the goals and objectives;

  2. The status of the project and its performance at any given time; and

  3. The roles and responsibilities of all parties related to the project. 

In the table below we have included the typical stakeholders that you may encounter while managing your project and the best way to communicate with each:

project-communication-stakeholder-(2).jpg

Of course, this is just a quick overview of the who’s who in project management and depending on the organisation you work for and the industry, there may be other stakeholders you need to consider in your communication planning.
 
For instance, if you’re working in the public sector you may need to work closely with government bodies and trade unions to get your project across the line. Whereas in the construction industry juggling the various trades and contractors is likely to be a large part of your role.
 
The golden rule no matter who you’re talking to is to tailor your communication style and method to suit the audience, their needs, their seniority, and role in the project.

 

TYPES OF COMMUNICATION 

In project management, there are a range of ways you can communicate depending on the situation and the audience.
 
There may be instances when it is necessary to communicate more formally, such as ensuring all agreements are recorded in written form through contracts and a statement of work. Whereas in other situations, you can be more casual in your approach, through stand ups and one on one meetings.
 
Below is an overview of the different communication types:

Communication-type-(1).jpg

Whether your communication is formal written or informal verbal, the key to communicating well is to keep your language simple and stick to the point to ensure you’re getting your message across.
 

PROJECT MANAGEMENT COMMUNICATION PLAN

With the information that has been presented to you, you are now well on your way to creating your communication plan, which you can integrate into your project management plan.

The project management communication plan explains how communication will be created, arranged, measured and distributed during the life of the project. The plan takes into account several factors including:

  • The stakeholders and their needs;

  • The information that will be communicated and why;

  • The frequency of communication;

  • The owner or person who will do the communication;

  • The technology or channel that will be used; and

  • The path to escalate issues. 

Within your communication plan, consider creating a table similar to the below to map out who your stakeholders are and how you will communicate to them.

project-communication-plan-(2).jpg

Make sure your stakeholders receive a copy of your draft communication plan, so that they can provide you with any feedback early on and you can tweak the plan to suit their requirements. Once you have set up your communication plan, it is important that any changes made over the course of the project are communicated with all relevant parties.
 
Taking the time to draft up a communication plan will not only allow you to overcome the challenges of stakeholder resistance but allow you to review and track your communication styles and methods.
 
In the day-to-day business of project management, the aim is to have regular communication scheduled in, whether it be face to face, over the phone or in person, to ensure all parties related to the project are kept in the loop.

 

THE SKILLS OF A GOOD COMMUNICATOR

As we have discussed above, communicating well is a key project management skill. The goal of communicating is to ensure you have the support you need to get the project across the finish line successfully, whilst ensuring that you’re providing your stakeholders with a voice throughout the process.
 
So make sure you’re honing the following skills:

  1. Clear and concise writing: Whether it’s a business report or newsletter, work on writing in a clear and easy to understand way, using simple language so that any audience will be able to understand what you are trying to convey. Avoid industry jargon unless all stakeholders are aware of the meaning.

  2. Verbal presentation skills: A big part of the role of a project manager is running meetings. After all it’s the project manager that everyone looks to for leadership and direction. From kick off meetings with the client to project progress overviews with senior executives, honing your verbal communication skills is essential.

  3. Active listening: Take the time to really hear and absorb what people are saying. This will help build rapport and trust with your colleagues, clients and contractors. 

  4. The ability to accept feedback: As we all know projects don’t always go to plan. Constructive criticism can be an effective way to build on your communication skills and take those lessons with you to future projects.

  5. Openness to see someone else’s point of view: You’re not always going to agree with everything your stakeholders say, however there is an art to being able to see things from their point of view and have empathy for where they are coming from. Having the ability to empathise will help significantly when it comes to conflict management.


Communicate frequently and strive to always keep your stakeholders informed and empowered. If you encounter resistance, take that as a good lesson that there is still work to be done, but trust that through your diligence you will communicate your way to success.

 

 


 

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