Good project communications are a fundamental component of project success. Formal memos, meeting agendas and minutes, quick question-and-answer sessions in the hall—they all contribute to moving your project forward. Your stakeholders need to know what’s happening and what’s scheduled. Your sponsors and the organization’s senior leadership team expect regular updates on progress and notification of potential financial or other impacts. Internal collaborators and external vendors want to be made aware of scheduling preferences and issues.
With everything the team must juggle, poor project communication practices can easily turn a routine challenge into a show-stopping problem. If you want to ward off any brewing communication issues, consider if you’ve seen any of the warning signs below. By identifying and addressing communication gaps and missteps now, your team will be better prepared to move projects to a successful completion without unnecessary obstacles.
1 – Project details are a surprise to team members
You expect to hear questions about scope, timing, expectations, and everything else while your initiative is still in the early planning stages. However, once you have a master plan and the effort is underway, your routine project meetings shouldn’t include a lot of surprises. If attendees seem unclear on which deliverables or activities have been designated as priorities, for example, you have a communication problem on your hands. Lingering doubts about how solid the timing is for key tasks or milestones should also be seen as a sign of trouble.
2 – No one seems to agree on the list of project stakeholders
Though you probably have a core group of stakeholders who participate in every project, there are often other people who join in because they’re directly impacted by the effort. Their workflows might be changing as a result of the project or they could be the designated contact for an important business partnership that hinges on the initiative’s outcome. Relentless questions from team members—particularly those that continue after the project kick-off meeting—about why an individual is participating in a project (or why another person is notinvolved) usually indicate your project communication strategy needs an overhaul.
3 – Budget details are still being discussed after the final figures have been approved
If you find team members are using weekly status meetings to rehash the same territory when it comes to budget line items, then somewhere along the way people were left out of the loop on financial discussions. That gap could cause big problems later if the group thinks there may be more money available than what has been formally earmarked for the project.
4 – Key resources are underutilized
Weak communication channels could be the culprit when a team doesn’t make the most of its support network. Whether it’s access to targeted knowledge through a partnership with an outside project management consulting firm or the use of training services offered by a software provider, project teams should be maximizing the resources that are available to them. It’s possible your group isn’t aware of the resource or they may not know how to tap into it. Either way, the situation represents missed opportunities that could hamper the organization’s ability to execute the project.
5 – Senior-level stakeholders don’t know where to send questions
One of the most worrisome warning signs is when influential stakeholders—typically executives or high-ranking sponsors—want information about the project but don’t know how to get it. Even if your internal communications are working well, your team can’t afford to alienate these kinds of supporters. At the first hint of confusion at the senior level, it’s time to assess your communication strategy and take steps to improve it.
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