Posted by: Gilad Lev-Shamur | January 29, 2010

5 communication mistakes that project managers do

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Keeping the project triangular (scope, time, budget) will not assure you a success in your projects. Today more project mangers understand that customer satisfaction is another element which has major impact on project’s success or failure. Achieving this satisfaction is mainly depended on your communication skills and methods.

Junior project managers tend to focus on the basic triangular.  They find it easy to learn the technical side of the project management world. In their eyes, mastering scheduling software and estimation models will bring them the glory. They tend to neglect the communication side of the project only to find their huge mistake at the end.

There are few reasons for this behavior:  no one explain them why it is important, feeling comfortable with the technical aspects, not understanding the organization politics, character and so on.

But in the end, if they survive, they will have to improve and master the communication aspects of project management.

The PMBOK state that:”Effective communication creates a bridge between diverse stakeholders involved in a project, connecting various cultural and organizational backgrounds, different level of expertise, and various perspectives and interests in the project execution or outcome”.

As a project manger you must understand that planning and managing  communication is the key for your success:

Here are some of the mistakes project managers do in their way to destroy their chances for success:

  • You are not the only one that want to complete this project

Looking at the project from one set of glasses can cause you a lot of problems. Every project team member has his own agenda, exposed or not. Ignoring (even by mistake) few team members, you may put yourself in problematic point. If you will work to satisfy them, you will gain their support and satisfaction.

Communication depends on expectations. Understanding your stakeholder’s priorities, what they need to know, what the forces that drive them are, will help you get your targets.

The communication plan contained the stakeholder analysis, helping us to recognizing these expectations. The PMBOK define several methods to classify and analyze stakeholders (power/influence, power/authority and so on), but the important part of this analysis is to make the effort to understand what exactly each of your stakeholders want to get from this project.  

  • Why you are hiding this?

Keeping the data close to you chest is probably one of the biggest mistakes you can do. Your customers want to know what is going on, your boss want to get real updates and you must supply that.

I saw too many project managers that did not share their problems with their customers. Instead of using their customers to help them solve issues in the project, or just  let them know  about project troubles, they try to keep business as usual. In the end it blows in their face.

Unless your customers are living in the fairytales land, they know that changes can happen, delay in shipments happen and quality test can give bad results. They probably will not like that, but surly they will want you to update them.

  • Why should I bather to update him?

In our complex world, it is not easy to understand the relationships between people and groups. There are visible connections and there are hidden connections.

The hidden connections are created due to interests or mutual history that you cannot see or understand.

Do not ignore people just because they seem to have less power than other ones. You may find yourself ruin your relationships with senior manager just because you ignore lower level technician who, surprisingly, started his career in the company with this manager and sometimes sit to drink coffee and chat with him.

  • Talking heads

The project manager is not the only one that communicates during project execution.  The problem starts when several people give instructions, send reports and other messages, to the project team.

You should clarify  who has the authority to communicate what and not confuse the team with several speakers.

  • Stop talking

I will not broaden in this section. Just remember:” Constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating” Charlie Kaufman.

Good Luck!


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