I have been giving trainings about Project Management for quite some time now and apart from the PRINCE2 methodology which I am highly in favor of, I continuously address the importance of communication as being key to managing successful projects. While this may not be new to most persons (“of course communication is important”), I go to the extreme of saying the following:
- Communication is the only task a PM has and everything he or she does is about that. Whether the PM is running meetings, formalizing the stated needs in documents, getting to a shared vision about the project’s product or its constituting components, creating a PBS (or WBS if you want), thinking up the schedule, the cost, the resources. Presenting highlight or exception reports, drafting down the communication, risk, quality or configuration strategy, investigating previous lessons or documenting new entries. E-ve-ry thing he or she does boils down to the same idea: you need to make sure that each and every one on your project’s team have the same information, the same background on the project. It is all about communication.
- Controlling your communication is the most difficult part of project management (while the unexpressed assumptions makes it dangerous): if a PM is not a good communicator, his or her project will run at risk. Furthermore he or she needs to be able to identify which kind of communication is needed at a certain moment; choose the approach correctly, the medium, the content. It depends who you address too, since the only way to treat people equally, is to address them differently. Each individual is different and wants to be talked to differently. A PM needs to be a master communicator; or a master manipulator if you so will.
- Failure to communicate is the main reason why project’s fail. It is not about your schedule being incorrect. It is not about being unable to come to a budget or to dream up the correct scope of your project, it is communication. Granted: I do use communication in the broadest sense possible with scheduling, roles, responsibilities, scope, meetings, cost, quality and so on being part of it. You need the first four in your project team, you need scope and quality clearly explained to your team manager (look up PRINCE2’s definition) and you need to be transparant about cost and scheduling to your project board. When in my trainings I ask an example of a failed project and its reason, I rerun through each of them to rephrase it to communication. I easily reach 70% each time, all the time.