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ABC is for Communication

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2978282131_e990209f0c_m.jpgWe all think we know how to communicate, right? As children, we learn how to talk; as adults our vocabularies increase as does our knowledge of both verbal and non-verbal queues. To borrow from an overused cliche: “It’s not only what you say, but how you say it…” Wellllll…maybe, yes, ok. But what about when you say it, how much of it you say and to whom it’s said?

In the world at large, communication (much like knowledge) IS power – when invoked. Strong communication skills, both written and verbal, are key to the management of many of life’s issues as well as professional advancement.  And, although the communicator may depend heavily on there being information at hand, it is his/her dissemination of that information to the right people at right time which results in the greatest benefit.

In the world of project management, communication is KEY. It’s so key in fact, it’s one of the Project Management Institute’s nine knowledge areas. And, as any well-seasoned project manager knows – and as any new PM will soon find out – communication breakdowns can spell a project’s certain demise. My mantra has always been, “when in doubt, OVERcommunicate.” We all have too many emails in our inboxes anyway; leave it to the recipient to decide if they need the information or not.

If there is relevant and timely information which pertains to a project, disseminate it!!! I have never had a stakeholder nor project resource tell me to stop bombarding them with emails about a project, but I have certainly been involved in instances whereby a simple FYI would have gone a long way toward keeping stakeholder’s anxieties at bay and resources and schedules on track.

In particular, if a project has met with any type of constraint ( be it a resource, budget or scheduling constraint) or dependencies are preventing a milestone from being met – communicating potential roadblocks will help a PM avoid having to ask forgiveness at best or admit project failure at worst. Although you do not want to instill unnecessary concerns or “cry wolf” if you will, when there is the definite potential for adjustments or parallel pathing, your stakeholders need to know.

Effectively, the art of project management involves delicately balancing a defined scope with identified deliverables, the resources involved in managing these deliverables, in order to ultimately reach milestones within an acceptable timeframe and budget. If any of these items stand to be affected, the three ‘Cs’ are your best friends: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Remember – one of the distinct advantages of being a project manager is the implicit trust you earn from those relying on you to steer a project to success; embedded in that trust is a willingness for your voice to be heard – so don’t be afraid to use it. It’s your “responsibility” !!!

At the same time, use the tools which have been created just for your project management pleasure  – tools such as MS Project and Visio are invaluable visuals which can communicate the progress of your project and any changes therein. I vividly recall managing a dual datacenter build for a methodical Japanese client (who also happened to be the parent company!), and when faced with project roadblocks for which I could neither excuse nor prevent, my constant Visio timeline updates won me all the brownie points that I needed to overcome an inevitable shift in delivery date. If you’re not a techie, which I certainly am not, there are numerous tutorials and resources available to learn how to use these tools.

We all take comfort when uncertainties are minimized, and there is no better way to ensure that those who need to know are in the know than by communicating. And whether you are a professional project manager or managing a life project such as a new home purchase or renovation or enrolling in a new school, the same rules apply.

A…B…C is for COMMUNICATION. You would not settle for mis-information so don’t settle for a lack thereof either

What do you think?

Photo Credit: Phantom of the Flicks

Natalya Sabga is a project management professional and operational efficiency expert turned author, consultant and executive education advisor. Fascinated by the study of human behavior, she has parlayed this into a successful writing career. Ms. Sabga is also the author of "From Secretary to CEO: A Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder Without Losing Your Identity" (2010). She is also the President of DNterprises, LLC - a firm specializing in project needs' analysis, and project management from implementation to operation. Ms. Sabga is currently working on her next non-fiction narrative, "A PMP's Guide to Project Managing Your Life," and authoring the blog 'ASK N'.
  • http://www.puredriven.com Patrick Garmoe

    Recently started working with a seasoned project manager, and it’s amazing to me how big a role communication plays. I’m also a workshifter, so communication is at times doubly challenging, when the client, project manager, and myself are spread out in three different places (and often states).

    Given this, I’d love a blog post on recommendations for the best tools to manage communication and processes when working in a geographically decentralized area, such as Highrise, Salesforce, etc. I’ve begun using Google Wave in earnest recently, and I’m really not sure why more companies don’t see it as a great project management communication tool.

    • Natalya I. Sabga

      Hi Patrick – thanks for the comment. I could not agree more- as a workshifter, even the time it takes for an email to leave your outbox and reach someone’s inbox can be too long! So, communication is that much more challenging. Google wave and other such tools are valuable as long as all stakeholders/team members buy in (i.e., use it!). I hate to say it, but sometimes the archaic phone call or cutting edge video conference works best to avoid confusion and nip an issue in the bud. Followed up by a recap email for posterity, of course! The concept of communication in geographically decentralized areas/industries is fascinating – I will have to conduct some research there and see if another blog is born! Thanks again!