C-Suite Advisory

5 Leadership Communication Techniques for Effective Project Management

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  • Successful projects managers must possess a unique combination of skills and experience — including excellent communication.
  • But communication within the project management world differs from effective communication in other leadership roles.
  • This article is part of CEOWORLD magazine’s ongoing series on C-Suite Advisory.
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Here are a few communication techniques that can help project managers be more effective in their roles.

Project managers must wear several different hats. They monitor deadlines, keep a close eye on details, and generally do whatever is necessary to keep everything on track. Crucial to balancing those responsibilities is the ability to communicate.

It takes more than run-of-the-mill communication skills to achieve efficient project management. Transparent communication with the C-suite helps project managers effectively define problems, delegate tasks, and request feedback from the appropriate stakeholders.

Why are project management communication strategies so essential? According to a study by The Economist Intelligence Unit, 44% of respondents said miscommunication led to projects being delayed or incomplete. Straightforward dialogue between project managers and high-level decision makers can help minimize such occurrences.

Why Is Effective Communication Important in Project Management?

When talks break down between project managers and company leaders, there’s usually a common reason: Executives are spread so thin that it can be challenging to check in with project managers for updates.

That said, the relationship most project managers have with executives can be more fraught than their relationship with VPs and other department heads. At those levels, leaders are more accustomed to sharing frequent updates, including successes and failures. Meanwhile, executives tend to only hear from project managers when a problem escalates up the ladder. This often means successes go unappreciated while project managers are resented for having nothing but bad news all the time.

Keeping small and large obstacles at bay in project management will require leadership and project managers to stay on the same page. Stakeholders must remain approachable and accessible to their project managers to discuss any status updates.

In turn, project managers must take the initiative to check in frequently with leadership, share updates, and get feedback on issues before they get out of control. There is a human instinct to seek pleasure and avoid pain, so it’s unnatural for most people to get out in front of issues before they become problems.

For project managers, the fate of any undertaking rests on an ability to communicate problems and face them directly.

How to Lead and Communicate Projects With Clarity

When project managers have a lot on their plates, they can struggle to find the time and resources to check in with stakeholders and higher-ups — but it’s vital to the health and timeliness of your projects.

Here are five actionable project management communication strategies to deploy:

  1. Build a work breakdown structure (WBS).
    What is a work breakdown structure, you ask? In short, it’s a blueprint project managers use to solve problems concisely and efficiently. A WBS makes a seemingly overwhelming project less daunting through delegation and crystalized communication.
    With a WBS, a process and terminology can emerge. With it in place, a project’s manager and its relevant stakeholders can stay on the same page, reducing potential risks and redundancies associated with unclear distributions of work.
    It’s hard to overstate the importance of communication with stakeholders in project management. No matter how talented your project managers might be, your project can’t stay efficient and on track without consistency. A WBS provides that structure.
  2. Use comprehensive dashboards that summarize project status.
    Thirty-nine percent of projects fail due to the lack of planning and a clearly defined goal — essentially, a lack of communication in project management. This figure speaks to how crucial planning is.
    A dashboard is what keeps all parties accountable, on track, and informed of the latest progress. Build a dashboard that summarizes each project’s status. Then, populate that platform with metrics relevant to the success or failure of your initiative.
    With that information in one place, project managers can articulate findings, identify successes and failures, and continue asking the questions necessary to smooth out the project and keep everything on track.
  3. Manage by walking around.
    A Management Events study found that 79% of top-level executives still prefer face-to-face meetings. When possible, grab a conference room or a table with your project manager and talk through the latest updates.
    There is something about the rapport you can build with people when you’re physically in the same space. It helps you get to know your project management team better personally and professionally, which inherently makes it easier to communicate and practice efficient project management.
  4. Create written status reports.
    Relevant project information sometimes gets lost in verbal communication. Written communication — be it through short- or long-form reports — can present a wealth of findings and insights.
    Written status reports keep stakeholders accountable for their project management efficiency metrics and help clarify responsibilities. Be sure to also document and archive these so you can track progress over time while identifying any delays or bottlenecks.
  5. Develop resource assignment reports.
    Resource assignments help clarify responsibilities and keep your project management team coordinated. They also help minimize inefficiencies and overallocations because every task is delegated and every expense is identified.
    Plus, these reports assist in exception management, a practice many leaders use to spotlight problems and see what isn’t going as planned. Exception management then dovetails into a root cause analysis that everyone can use to communicate a plan to get back on track.

These are the bases of control. Without these foundational documents and processes, projects run the risk of spiraling out of control. The more you can adhere to these project management communication strategies, the better chance your projects have of avoiding friction points and succeeding in the future.

Written by Gus Cicala.

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Gus Cicala
Gus Cicala is the founder and CEO of Project Assistants, whose mission is to eliminate project failure through project staffing, consulting, and managed services. Gus resides in Wilmington, Delaware.


Gus Cicala is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on LinkedIn.