5 Essential Communications Techniques for Project Managers – How to Stop Failing!

There has been a series of studies over the last several years that have proven time and time again that the #1 cause of project failure is communications. To test this theory ourselves, let’s play a little game. 

  • Google “Project Failures” Ok, what do you see? I get results like:
  • Project Failure | 6 Reasons why projects fail
  • Seven cause of project failure 
  • Project Failure: 10 Famous Failures and Examples

… and the list goes on and on and on.

Now, let’s unpack some of those results,what do we see? You see lots and lots of reasons why projects fail, and one that is the most common in every survey is project communications. But that obvious, so I am not even going to go there. What I want you to do is to put on your project communications cap and start to look at each of the different reasons in those surveys very closely. 

Let’s use one example, and trust me, it works on all of them. In this case, let’s use, “Lack of resource planning”. That one comes up lots on survey after survey. 

Lack of resource planning

Ok, got it. Let’s look at “Lack of resource planning” from a pure communication perspective. What do I mean by that? How could communication prevent lack of resource planning on our projects? 

To me that generates a ton of questions such as: 

  1. How did the PM communicate the need for resources for the project?
  2. Were resource needs discussed in the Planning phase? 
  3. Have we done this type of project before and we just “know” who we need? 
  4. Were there special skills sets needed for this project and we had to hire outside for those skills? 
  5. Were all our resources on 3-4 other projects and we never planned around their other efforts?

See where I am going here? If a project manager was overly proactive in their communications around resources, do you think there would have been failure on the project based on “Lack of resource planning”? No, I don’t think.

Now, it is your turn. Do you still have that Google results list up? Go into just one of those surveys and pick another reason. It doesn’t matter, it can be anything. 

Ok, start asking those same questions? 

This is awesome right? We can go on to the next reason and the next one, and the next one…. 

But what are we learning, what is our take-away? Well, that is simple. Projects fail because project managers don’t value communications. They don’t value the status reports and they don’t value the power they have to communicate project information. They don’t, because if they did, we would see much better results in our projects. 

Does that make sense? Fun, right? Scary, right? 

So, what are some quick tips and tricks that you implement to improve your project communications. 

Here are the top five techniques project managers need to employ to communicate their project information effectively.

  1. Text vs. Graphics – ask your customers this question. Are you a text person or a graphics person? That’s it. Not everyone will resonate with both. There are text people and there are graphics people, say it again. There are text people and…. 
  2. Be consistent – most project managers do end-of-day Friday status reports, some even use Mondays. Regardless of the day, pick a day and hit that day. It can’t be Monday one week, Tuesday the following week…etc. Be consistent. Pick a day and hit that day!
  3. Proofread – take two minutes from your day and proofread your project reports before you hit send. . The glaring spelling mistake is a huge disappointment, and you lose a ton of credibility.
  4. Actions/Risks/Plan to Green – spend the time and document your respective project logs. What is the risk, who owns the risk, and when will it be resolved? What is the issue, who owns the issue, when will it be resolved? What is the plan to green, who owns the plan to green, when will it be resolved. And so on, and so on.
  5. Value your project reports – I cannot stress enough, this is the one chance a week or month, to show the status of your project. Please don’t make this a check box activity. This is your chance to show off the great work you and your team are doing. Don’t waste that opportunity!

If you like what you are reading, Bruce Taylor and I have so much more information to help you in our book “Project Management Communication Tools”, available in book stores and online. Bruce and I have, combined, over 75 years in this space, and we would love to share our knowledge, background and experience with you. 

Also, if you are serious about learning and growing in the PMO space, I highly encourage you to check out my Bill Dow PMP Training Page where I offer ebooks, training classes and mentoring/coaching programs to help you grow in your career.

Let me know what you think? Were those tips helpful.Thanks for reading!

Bill Dow, PMP

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