Wrangling Project Communication Issues on Your Team

Projects that have clear and ongoing project communication issues eventually become plagued with problems. You’ve probably seen it before: The people responsible for managing schedules and monitoring progress are seen huddled in a corner solving problems, but the issues they’re working on and the solutions they’re developing to address them aren’t always communicated outside the planning room. Decisions are being made and expectations are being set without input from the larger team. It creates an environment that’s ripe for failure.


Why is communication such a high priority in project management? With all the communication tools and data management systems at our disposal today, isn’t important information available to those who need it? If the schedule is well developed and everyone knows their role, shouldn’t things just move along according to the plan? The answer is, simply, “no.” Task sequences may be updated, either to keep pace with emerging events or to take advantage of unexpected opportunities. Pricing and other factors could also change along the way.


If you still aren’t making information sharing a priority, consider some of the primary reasons it’s important to maintain strong communication channels throughout the entire project life-cycle.


Your project team members need to have the latest information

From a carefully developed initial plan, a project’s schedule will evolve as activities move forward. The early delivery of a key piece of equipment, for example, may allow the team to wrap up some tasks ahead of schedule and move on to the next phase. On the other hand, problems discovered during software testing could mean that activities need to be re-sequenced or compressed to keep progress aligned with the target completion date. Project team members should be kept aware in both scenarios so they can continue to dynamically update the plan and take any necessary actions within their areas to maintain the pace.


Your sponsors and executive team need to know about any issues

Every project is intended to deliver value to the organization. Your sponsors are counting on capitalizing on the project’s benefits as quickly as possible, and as the plan unfolds, they need to be alerted to any problems, opportunities, questions, concerns, or other matters that may come up. There could be any number of business commitments tied to the project, from paying (or receiving) milestone payments to ensuring compliance with regulatory mandates. If the project involves anticipated cost savings or the ability to increase productivity, there are sure to be expectations around those metrics, too, both in terms of time-frames and scale. If anything occurs that could impact the timing or the value of your project, that information must be communicated—clearly and quickly—to the organization’s leadership so they can manage their end of the situation as needed. Routine updates provided to the C-suite and other high-level sponsors are also one of the best ways to maintain transparency throughout the project.


Your stakeholders need to know the current status

For those stakeholders who aren’t part of the central project team—end users, vendors and other outside collaborators, internal departments providing support, etc.—any changes to the project plan could trigger significant workload shifts. These people need to be kept up to date so they can manage their own operations, otherwise they could experience difficulties such as last-minute staffing shortages or unexpected fees for off-hours labor. Time-sensitive projects, such as software implementations or planned outages, may prove particularly difficult to accommodate, as vendors with niche skills often have very limited windows of availability. The project team needs to be diligent in communicating status changes and updates across the entire stakeholder base to avoid these problems.

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