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The Importance of Communication in Project Management

Eric Rickert Digital Project Manager, PMP
#Industry Insights
Published on February 18, 2020

We share some tips that project managers can follow to ensure that everyone involved in a project maintains the communication that is essential to its success.

Whether you’re talking about the personal or the professional, communication is the foundation of healthy relationships. When it comes to project management, this is a maxim to take to heart, since 80% of project management is communication. In fact, according to the Project Management Institute’s Pulse of the Profession In-Depth Report, highly effective communicators are more likely to deliver projects on time and within budget.

At Diagram, we understand the importance of maintaining communication between everyone involved in a project. Here are some of the lessons we’ve learned in our years of project management:

Listening Can be More Helpful than Speaking.

Are you really listening when your team is speaking, or are you only hearing the words being said while formulating in your head what you are going to say when there is an open space to speak? It is easy to fall into the latter of these two scenarios especially when you, as the PM, are responsible for holding the team to the agenda and time constraints of a meeting. Most people think they are better listeners than they really are, and I find that it takes a conscious effort to really focus on and absorb the message.

Everyone involved in a project is going to have their own opinion about what is most important, what should be prioritized, and when something needs to be done. It’s a project manager’s job to listen to all of these opinions, provide space for everyone to be heard, and keep project objectives in order.

Magic Happens in the Silent Moments

Don't feel the need to fill every pause or silent moment with words. It is in these spaces that you get the real dirt. I've had experiences where not immediately moving to the next agenda item has created space and opportunities for less vocal teammates to speak, or for someone to add important detail to a conversation that would have been omitted if we just moved on.

Get Everyone on the Same Page 

One way a project manager can facilitate communication is by making sure everyone is speaking the same language. This goes beyond dialect and applies to any industry or technical jargon as well. There should be a high level overview so everyone can understand the purpose of what is being done and how their work fits into the overall project. In addition, project managers should be ready to provide a communication management plan, because this helps to ensure that everyone involved understands each project participant's role.  

Black and White Text Has No Inflection 

Written text often can be misinterpreted, because words on paper or a computer screen don’t have the tone or inflection that verbal communication does. Holding regular meetings, whether they are done in person, over the phone, or via video chat, can help a project’s participants fully understand each other. If holding these regular meetings isn’t possible, some initial face-to-face meetings can help, since they will allow people to associate a face with a message. Since a project’s success can be tied to individuals’ willingness to work together, facilitating this type of interpersonal communication can make a real difference in how well they do so.  

Pick Up the Phone 

Lately, I have been reverting to my old sales habits of just picking up the phone and calling people. Especially if I need an answer that a single person can provide. I feel it has saved me time and helped to strengthen working relationships. In 2018, it's acceptable to just send an email or instant message when information needs to be shared, but this process often takes more time compared to a phone call. Consider the time it takes to compose a message, then revise it to make sure you've written the perfect correspondence, and wait to hear back. In most cases, you could've had a conversation and concluded with a decision in half that time. Regular conversations connect you to people, and it’s the people who get projects done. 

Understand Timing and Prioritization 

The timing of communication can be a critical part of a project’s success. Since project work is often tied to dependent or concurrent tasks, project managers will need to make sure that team members are sharing important information that allows team members to know what has been done and what needs to be done next. It’s also necessary to prioritize communication and convey the right amount of information. Too much communication can be overwhelming, leading to important information getting lost. On the other hand, too little communication might not provide a clear enough picture to allow team members to complete the work that needs to be done. Project managers who understand how to send the right amount of information to the right people at the right time will be able to keep things moving smoothly, resulting in a successful project.

Do you have any questions about how to maintain the right kinds of communication between your projects’ team members? Do you have any communication tips of your own? We’d love to hear them! Please feel free to leave a comment below, or contact us if you want to learn more about the processes that Diagram’s team follows for our web development projects. We look forward to hearing from you!