Many people think “managing communication” is the most important of the project management processes. If you think about it, over half of the time you spend managing projects involves some element of communication. Here are five techniques to help you be more effective.
Use appendices for status report details. You want to focus on meaningful information in the status report. However, you may find that some of your audience finds meaning in the exceptions while others find meaning in the details. One way to satisfy both audiences is to write the formal Status Report as an exception-based document and include the details as appendices (attachments). If you are emailing the information, you could email the detailed logs and reports as separate documents.
Report less detail as you get higher in the organization. Always keep the organizational level of your audience in mind. The organization level helps you determine the level of detail that is required in the Status Report. For instance, your team members need information that is highly detailed and highly specific to the work they are assigned. The manager of the project manager needs to have information summarized and delivered at a higher level. The next higher manager needs information at a higher level still.
Use the best communication media. When you select the various types of communication that you need for your project, also determine the best medium for delivering the information. For instance:
- Status Reports. These do not have to be on paper. Depending on the person sending and receiving the information, the status can be communicated via voicemail, email, videoconference or other collaborative tools.
- Email. Use email for routine messages, information sharing and some marketing related messages. Spread these out so that you don’t inundate the same people over a short period of time.
- Voicemail. Use voicemail to leave simple messages to individual people or to entire departments. Complicated or long messages are not appropriate for voicemails.
These and other mediums can be used to communicate effectively based on the message and the audience.
Use green / yellow / red indicators to show project health. We refer to green/yellow/red colors as indicating the overall health of the project. “Health” takes into account schedule, budget and scope, but also quality, morale, risk and other project indicators. In our model green means you are on track, red means you are in the ditch and you need to re-baseline and everyone else is yellow.
Place communication activities on your schedule. The project manager should treat communication events like any project deliverable. You should add the activities to the schedule and assign people and end-dates so that the team understands when the communication is expected and who is responsible for creating and delivering it.
There are many elements of communication that require soft skills such as leading, negotiating and providing performance feedback. But there are other elements that simply rely on having good processes and good techniques. The best project managers have both the soft skills and the good process skills as well.