All Project Managers know that communication is the life blood of every project.
Already, the majority of your time will be spent communicating with your project team. Whether you’re issuing instructions, checking tasks or providing expert guidance. However, while you can be relied on to communicate effectively, the same isn’t always true of your team.
Let’s be honest. While there’s no need to point fingers, sometimes poor communication is down to individuals. Still though, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your team have the most effective processes and platforms for seamless communication. It’s in the interest of your project.
That’s because effective communication is the only tool that guarantees you complete oversight of your project. So irrespective of your team, you need to know these 10 best practices for effective communication.
1. Make Time For Regular Catch Ups
Too many meetings can be a problem. However, too few will have your project floundering. You need to strike the right balance. The right balance is not canceling your regular catch-ups.
That’s because if you do, you won’t know what’s happening on your project. It might make your team think that you don’t have effective oversight of their work.
While you already have a busy schedule, regular individual catch-ups will give your team an important, private line of communication to you. This is when they can tell you everything about their deliverables in a safe environment. It also provides plenty of motivation for them to hit your deadlines.
You don’t need to have these meetings in person. Virtual meetings work too. It’s just vital that you have them. You could use Skype, have a conference call. If you don’t have time, request that every workstrand provides you with a regular update on their work. This will help you identify problems as they emerge and prioritize your meetings more effectively.
While it doesn’t matter how you hold these meetings, it’s important that they’re regular. More, always try not to prioritize seeing your favorite team members. You need to use your time effectively, making sure everyone gets face time with you.
2. Establish Regular Review Points
In addition to regular catch-ups, regular and planned review points help you communicate project wide changes across your team and stakeholders. These can take the form of Project Boards, Milestone Meetings, or another format that’s appropriate to your work.
At these meetings, there should be a set agenda. The agenda should include milestone reviews, budgetary performance, and a review of ongoing risks.
Assign a named person accountability for organizing and keeping a regular note of meetings. This ensures that they are productive, the business that you need to cover is completed, and that previous actions are followed up. The magic of meeting notes is that you can share them digitally with your entire team. They also will help you review whether actions have progressed.
It’s important that if work needs to be reviewed before the meeting, everyone has access to it in advance. Productive presentations and discussions about the progress of your work will keep your Review Points relevant and attendees engaged.
Finally, remember to invite a mixture of people to your reviews. Encourage more senior members of your project team to let more junior members of staff present at these meetings. It will help them with their professional development, while encouraging a more open and transparent working environment.
3. Use Online Collaboration Tools
Online collaboration tools are great. They include Google Docs, Microsoft 365 Suite, Monday, Asana or other online collaboration tools that allow your team to manage their projects remotely and share files quickly.
These tools can really help bring a new level of oversight and transparency to your project. However beware, if you implement online collaboration tools incorrectly they will not work. If no one is using them, they will not be worth the time or the money that you have invested in them.
Foster a culture within your project team that strives to use online collaboration tools to their full potential. You can do this by establishing clear ways of working, assigning individual responsibility to one team member to make sure online records stay up to date, and give clear instructions that work needs to be completed on specific platforms.
As Project Manager, it’s important to ensure that you use these tools too. If you are asking the rest of your office to change their working behaviors, you will have to change your own too. If not, they will resent it and be less likely to comply with your instructions.
4. Keep Your Stakeholders Involved
To run a project successfully, you need to ensure that are communicating with your stakeholders regularly. While this will happen organically during your regular project meetings and milestone reviews, it’s worth putting in some extra effort and opening up the communication channels as wide as possible.
Within your company this could include regular meetings with other project managers, setting up virtual mailboxes for occassional virtual mails, a monthly catch-up with your boss, and even weekly or monthly update reports about your project.
It’s always better to communicate with your stakeholders proactively that to wait to be asked to provide an update on the project.
If your organization has a regular Executive Committee, or Board Meeting, when your project has reached a specific milestone, proactively ask the meeting organist whether you are able to provide an update on your work. It will inspire confidence in your project and give you the power to explain delays without surprising anyone. It’s also an easy way to communicate changes to the project without getting your stakeholders concerned.
5. Don’t Neglect Your Project Documentation
Communication isn’t just about how people speak to each other. It includes all of your project documentation too. Communication includes your project strategy, you project roadmap, and how assigned tasks, role descriptions and project briefs are delivered to your team.
There shouldn’t be any ambiguity in your project documentation. If there is, it will hinder how effectively your project team are able to complete their tasks and figure out exactly what they’re doing.
To assess whether your Project Documentation is up to scratch, take responsibility and review it. If there’s anything included that you do not understand, seek clarifications. Once you are satisfied, make sure the accountable team members update their documentation.
It’s helpful to use online collaboration tools to ensure that your Project Documents are in a centrally located and managed space. This could be on a shared hard-drive, online, hosted on your internal servers or as a print out that is easily locatable in the office.
Clear and accessible Project Documentation will save your team time. If you have everything stored in one place and your project team can find the information quickly and effectively it will save you time too. That’s because your team will not be constantly be posing the same questions to you, and will be able to work out for themselves what they need to do to complete their work.
Well maintained Project Documentation is also a great way to prevent mistakes and project scope creep happening.
6. Be Present
Remote working is one of the great wonders of our age. Flexible working patterns are a fatalistic way to retain employees, and help your team achieve a better work / life balance.
However, while remote working is important, remember that visibility and accessibility are fundamental aspects of good communication. This means that when employees are working remotely, they should be contactable. The same applies to you too.
This doesn’t mean that you need to be in the office all the time. However, when you are out, your project team needs to know when they can contact you, what the preferred method of communication is, or who they should be speaking to instead.
Use technology to your advantage. Have a call with someone on Skype, or you can even use Whatsapp to check that your figures are correct.
While it’s important that you are available when your team are experiencing issues, it’s also important to be there when they aren’t.
An active presence builds confidence in your capabilities as a manager. It will also help your team be more proactive when they need to tell you that things are not going well.
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7. Let Team Bonding Flourish
Everyone needs to communicate well with each other for your projects to succeed. Unsurprisingly, communication becomes much easier when everyone in your project team gets along.
That’s why it’s important to foster a good working relationship with everyone in your team and to encourage your team to get to know each other.
One of the easiest ways to encourage communication within your team is to facilitate team bonding. This allows your team to get to know each other outside of the working environment, and relate to one another in a more humanized context.
When people enjoy each others company, it’s easier for them to think of their work as a whole, rather than individually assigned tasks. Teams with good working relationships are more likely to share problems, successes and new ideas with their team. It’s all about creating a safe environment.
A true team environment will allow everyone to cooperate more effectively, and actually want to communicate when they get into work each day.
8. Be Inclusive
In addition to encouraging engagement in your team, you need to make sure that everyone feels like their opinion is valued.
If they don’t, they will be less likely to tell you when something is not going well on their project, and will be inclined to silo information. Lead by example and make sure that you listen to everyone’s opinion. If you brush off a suggestion from a junior employee, it may change the behavior of other team members towards them.
It’s great when you proactively seek the opinion of junior members of staff and make it clear that your door is always open to new ideas. Irrespective of whether they take up the offer, it makes your team feel like they won’t have to hide their personal problems at work.
Ensuring that you have the right representation in your team also helps foster a more inclusive working environment. This could mean ensuring that your have a broad representation in your management positions, giving your team the confidence to communicate.
9. Create an Open and Transparent Working Environment
Be honest with your project team. When things go wrong, tell them.
Perhaps your company is going through a difficult patch, is undergoing a takeover, or maybe your project just hasn’t hit the milestone that you were aiming for.
Lead by example and make sure you communicate problems to your team. It will help create a more comfortable working environment. It also shows them that it’s perfectly natural to announce bad news, and will prevent resentment from building unnecessarily.
By creating an open and transparent working environment, you also able to build a better rapport with your project team, and build their confidence in you as a manager.
Sometimes work isn’t easy. We all sometimes find it difficult to tell people what’s happening. However, if you are open and honest, they are more likely to treat you with respect and keep you informed about the daily workings of your project.
10. Celebrate Achievements Together
When you hit a project milestone, celebrate! Just make sure that you do it together, as a team.
Although one exceptional employee may have delivered a project milestone, you work in a team where everyone’s input is important. Even if some team members contributions have been small, don’t block them from celebrations.
Everyone has something to offer, and celebrating it together helps motivate the entire team. Always make sure you take time to celebrate achievements, as it shows that you understand what has gone well during the project. Celebrating together also ensures that certain team members are not unintentionally alienated.
Yes, communication can feel like it’s a lot of effort. Just remember, it’s the only way you will know exactly what your project team are achieving, or not achieving.
To deliver successful projects, you need to ensure that your project team are working in a healthy environment that promotes great communication between everyone.
If you’re worried that your team aren’t telling your everything, or just aren’t talking enough, take some time out and identify the obstacles.
While you can encourage individuals to communicate better, you’ll have a more impressive impact if you work towards an environment where effective communication is rewarded. When you’re doing it, just don’t forget these 10 project management communication best practices.