Why Is Communication Important in Project Management?
Communication is the most important tool a project manager and their team has to help clients achieve their goals, especially in the ever-changing landscape of the current workplace. With employees working all over the country, or world, at different times of day and juggling competing priorities, effective project communication is not only helpful but necessary, creating cohesion and efficiency internally and with partner teams.
While not every organization has a specific project manager labeled role on their team, every project should have a main point of contact or dedicated member in charge of seeing the project to completion. Every facet of the organization benefits from a project management role team member and communicating in the most effective way possible. This might be your organization’s event manager for the volunteers executing your yearly fundraisers, the Executive Director working with their Board Members on the program’s initiatives, or your Grant Writer coordinating the organization’s program funding goals. Communicating effectively with all of the organization’s constituents fosters their investment in moving your mission forward.
While online tools and resources give the sense that people are more connected than ever, selecting the right communication vehicle, visibility, form, and timing for what you’re trying to accomplish is vital to achieving true connection and mutual understanding. From role expectations to clarifying a task, consistent and clear communication between teams can prevent or solve most issues that arise and set the project up for success.
In remote or hybrid workplaces, organizations are likely already utilizing popular tools like email, Slack, Teams, Google Meet, Zoom, etc. To ensure effective project communication, keep in mind these best practices for groups communicating in these virtual channels.
- Try to keep discussions to relevant project conversations.
- Include as much of the team as possible at any given time. That might include CC’ing them on project status emails.
- Keep conversations about a project to the main channels of your workplace communication system (Slack/Teams/etc.) and/or tagging them in comments in your project management tool or shared document.
Depending on the nature of your project, a next step might include implementing project management software, in which an entire project can be housed and organized. Whether colleagues are working asynchronously or at the same time, project managers and team members can communicate about the status of a task or review an entire project within this type of tool.
Non-tech Based Communication Tools
Outside of technological tools, there are additional ways to set clear expectations and maintain effective project communication. Communication is vital to the nonprofit sector as most organizations must be efficient in their resource allocation. Working with limited resources, it is vital that your team communicates effectively to avoid wasting or duplicating time and/or efforts. Discover why communication tools are important to include for effective project management
Shared Google Sheets and Docs work well to facilitate asynchronous work and communication at a low cost. Project plans can be efficiently set up in spreadsheets with deadlines and tasks that the whole team has access to. Google Docs can be used to create collaborative agendas or meeting minutes.
Meetings + Agendas
Meetings, whether in person or virtual, are an important part of managing a project. It’s important to be considerate of the team’s time when setting up a meeting. Whenever possible, stick to 30 minutes or less. Every meeting should leave the group with their questions answered and a list of action items to take away from the call to work through.
At the start of each meeting, it’s important that a team member is assigned to take notes so that they can be revisited later and action items can be communicated for follow-up and accountability.
Agendas are an important project management tool for making the most of your meeting time. Aim to create a thoughtful and concise agenda for all to follow, which should include:
- Any outstanding tasks not completed by the team.
- Any roadblocks the team might be experiencing in completing a task.
- Next steps for each member is to ensure everyone is on the same page.
If there is a lot to cover for a particular project meeting, it can be helpful to assign a time limit to each agenda point. Any item that goes beyond its designated time can be taken offline for relevant team members or a subsequent meeting set up for that item specifically to be addressed to keep the meeting on track.
A project RACI acts as a guiding tool for clear role and task division. At the start of a project, this tool helps define the details of the project tasks and the division of those tasks among the group. It determines who will be Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed for every task in the project’s scope. Because projects are dynamic and outside factors can influence its organization or scope, this tool can be flexible to accommodate new task areas or role shifts. Ultimately, it acts as a way for team members to understand their part of a project and see how it fits within the holistic effort at any given time. Especially for nonprofit organizations working with volunteers with different skill sets and levels of commitment, it can be helpful to outline what is expected from the team or group at the start of a project.
Selecting the Best Form of Communication for Your Message
Even with the aid of communication tools, understanding which to use and how to deliver different kinds of messages is vital to being understood accurately and maintaining project efficiency.
Tone is an important part of communication and can be easily misinterpreted in text. If the message being sent contains feedback for a team member or has the ability to be misunderstood in text form, it’s best to consider a face-to-face conversation, or as close to that as possible.
This can look like adding a 15 minute meeting on someone’s calendar to meet in-person or virtually, using tools like Google Meet or Zoom, or having an audio conversation, using a phone call or the Huddle feature on Slack. By giving someone more of a human connection and easier access to tone and delivery of the message, it’s more likely to be understood by the receiver.
This may seem like a longer way to deliver information than a quick text or email. However, this point of connection and shared understanding saves more time in the long run by minimizing messages getting lost in translation and eliminating the time used to fix mistakes that come from that.
Status Updates and Handoffs
If the communication being sent indicates the status or completion of a task or a handoff in responsibility to a team member, consider channels that ensure the message isn’t going to be missed by them. From shifting project scopes to competing deadlines to ever-evolving to do lists, colleagues are inundated with different communication all day long. Messages that come through infrequently used channels or don’t have the person tagged specifically can easily be missed. To avoid missed deadlines and project stalls due to missed communication:
- Use a frequently used channel.
- Tag the person to let them know that the status has changed or they are now responsible.
- Include the message in multiple places (i.e. slack and a project management tool, email and a chat notification, etc.) to increase visibility if they need a reminder.
- Assume that if they haven’t responded, they haven’t seen it. Send a follow-up message after an appropriate amount of time.
As mentioned previously, it’s no secret that teams are receiving a large amount of information through different forms and at varying levels of importance each day. It’s easy to miss an email or Slack message or not remember to return to it and address it. Just as important as sending a piece of communication to a team member, ensuring that they have received the message is just as vital to the project management process. Including a friendly follow-up could bump your message to the top of their inbox or feed, giving them the nudge they need to prioritize that task or respond with an update. Additionally, consider reiterating the message in another tool the group uses to share or restate the task. If done thoughtfully and tactfully, most team members will be happy for the reminder.
Effective project communication is one of the most important aspects of project management. Why is communication important in project management? It creates efficiency and ensures the success of your project. Clear communication allows for the group to share expectations of one another, understand their roles, and create a mutual understanding about goals and the status of tasks.