Most project managers know that communications is 90% of what they do every day. If you understand the importance of good communication practices, shouldn’t you incorporate it in your core skill set?
Here are five practical tips to help you enhance your communication skills and to implement consistently. When possible, try to see the team members often for what I jokingly call “eyeball management”.
- Reports: Generate project progress or status reports once a week to see if your project is on track. Then distribute those reports to your customer and management team. Explain any deviations from the plan and what you’re doing to correct them.
- Team Meetings: Hold a weekly meeting with your project team, even if it’s only 30 minutes. Plan each meeting against an agenda and any key objectives in order to keep it focused. Communicate the status of the project. Discuss with them the goals, deliverables and timeframes that need to be achieved. Obtain feedback about the progress made in the past week and agree on the planned activities for the next week or two. Obtain buy-in from each team member. It is important to align team members as this will help to keep them motivated, and committed to the project outcome.
- Minutes: Always take minutes recording the decisions made and to keep track of actions due. Send the minutes to those people that will be affected by the decisions and actions and then store the minutes in your project folder. When projects involve external customers, minutes can/will be considered as a legal entity if a dispute may arise around certain decisions made.
- Email: Use mail to make arrangements en only when something needs to be done or if it’s important. Keep email to a minimum as too much mail makes communication less effective. Also try not to copy the whole team for every mail, but always think who is the message intended for and who else needs to know about it. As a project manager it’s usually a good arrangement to be copied in on team members emails to stay informed of what is going on.
- Tools: Collaborate with your team online, using software tools that will allow you to have discussions, share files and send messages (instant messaging). It is also recommended to have a time capturing tool to track the time spent per team member as part of your cost management.
In general you want to be respectful of other people’s time. Agree the communications plan with the team and other stakeholders. Explain your expectations as a project manager so that the team members will understand why they need to attend the weekly meetings and why you want them to read the minutes, as they are used not only for communication, but also as a management tool.
By minimizing email, meetings and discussions and keeping them focused and short, you’re avoiding all of the usual “noise” that project teams usually generate. Find a weekly routine that works for your team and be consistent with your communication practices.
As an effective project manager, it is good to have an approach like: “always be communicating”. This will greatly improve your chances of success.