A Guide to Project Communication Management
Believe it or not, improved communication can increase team productivity by up to 25%.
For teams involved in project management or project-based work, communications management is an often overlooked but crucial part of success that can completely derail a project if mismanaged. Many projects involve interrelated tasks, meaning team members must work together and communicate to get things done.
This is where project communication management comes into play. In short, project communication management is a series of processes to help ensure that messages are properly distributed, received, and understood by the correct parties at every stage of your project.
In this blog, we’ll explore how to plan, monitor, and manage communications throughout your project’s entire lifecycle.
Without a plan for effective communication, your project is sure to face complications. In fact, nearly 30% of employees cite poor communication as the reason they were unable to produce their work on time.
Poor project communication management typically leads to confusion regarding the status of the project and who’s working on what, which doesn’t reinforce your client’s confidence in your ability to complete the project.
Plus, your project team members want to feel like their work is valued. It’s difficult for people to feel important and productive when a project is disorganized.
Project managers are tasked with mastering communication and managing relationships throughout the project, which is a huge undertaking. Here are some of the most important communication skills for project managers to develop.
Be an active listener
In order to be responsive leaders, project managers must be active listeners. Active listeners are attentive to the verbal and nonverbal cues conveyed by the speaker, which allows them to better understand the message and respond accordingly.
Conversely, passive listeners are not consciously engaged in the conversation, which inhibits their ability to understand the message’s content and can leave the speaker feeling frustrated.
Project managers must ensure their team members feel heard and understood so that they feel supported in navigating and overcoming obstacles and roadblocks.
Accept constructive criticism
Being open to receiving constructive criticism is a very necessary skill for project managers. Providing feedback to team members and encouraging them to share feedback with each other as well is key in not only helping your team function efficiently but also contributing to improving team accountability.
Don’t forget to mention positive things that the person is doing well when giving feedback, as only focusing on the negative can leave them feeling attacked. It’s also a good idea to pair your constructive criticism with suggestions for improvement so that your teammate can change course quickly.
Mitigate conflicts as they arise
Conflict gets in the way of smooth communication among project teammates. As such, it should be promptly resolved. Here are a few steps to guide you in settling disputes:
- Avoid taking sides by acknowledging everyone’s perspectives and opinions.
- Schedule a meeting with all involved parties.
- Use this meeting to get to identify the underlying issue driving the conflict.
- Decide on the next steps for resolution and agree on a compromise, if necessary.
Before your project kicks off, it’s a good idea to create a plan outlining how communication will occur for this project. Having a master document with these details is helpful to refer back to during the project’s lifecycle, and it also ensures that everyone has the same expectations.
Here is a breakdown of what you’ll want to include in your project management communication plan:
Audience: Create a list of all people who will be receiving project communication. This will likely include team members as well as the client and other stakeholders. Include the contact information for each and be sure to note if they have preferred communication methods. Incorporating this list into your plan will prevent you from leaving anyone out of the loop once the project begins.
Communication channels: Consider all potential channels of communication you’ll want to employ throughout the project’s lifecycle. This might include email updates, reports, or meetings. Try to also consider which channels are most appropriate for each audience and message. In other words, consider the types of situations where informal meetings are acceptable versus the kinds of messages that may require a formal report.
Style of communicating: Give some thought to the style of communication you’ll want to use for each channel, including how much detail you’ll aim to provide as well as how formal your language will be. For example, maybe weekly update emails will be more informal and provide a broad overview of the project status, whereas monthly reports will go into significant detail.
Schedule: Establishing a general timeline for project communication is one of the most important parts of your plan. Your project’s messaging schedule will help set your team’s expectations for both when they’ll be hearing from you as well as when they can expect to provide their own updates.
Also read: 12 Free Project Budget Templates
Once you’ve created a solid project communication plan, it’s time to turn that plan into action. Below you’ll find five steps we recommend following to help implement your new project communication management processes.
It’s important to keep in mind that communication is a balancing act, and too much communication can be just as harmful as not enough communication. Before sending out a message, consider who actually needs to be receiving this message to avoid overloading recipients.
The list you created as part of your communication plan will prove useful in this step, as it will prevent you from forgetting anyone and help you recall your recipients’ communication preferences.
Before sending out a message, email, or memo, it’s critical to consider the goal of that communication. Some channels are not a good fit for certain goals.
For example, if your goal is to receive a client’s approval on an expense, you’ll want to consider which channels best prompt a response, such as a direct email, and adjust your strategy accordingly.
The contents of your messages will obviously differ on a case-by-case basis depending on who’s receiving the communication and when it’s being sent. In general though, don’t forget to include details on project schedule, finances, scope, risks, and roadblocks in your regular project updates.
A big part of communication as a project manager is consistency. Try to stick to the communications schedule you created as part of your initial plan to ensure you’re meeting your team’s expectations, and be sure to keep everyone updated on changes to your schedule as it evolves.
If it feels like a large chunk of your day is being spent on communication, don’t worry. Some reports estimate that as much as 90% of a project manager’s time is spent on communication.
The PMBOK Guide contains a formula to help you estimate the number of communication channels you can expect your project to have, where N represents the size of your team: N(N-1)/2
For example, a team of four can expect to have 6 possible channels of communication based on this formula calculation: 4(4-1)/2 = 4(3)/2 = 12/2 = 6
As you can see, more team members mean more channels and an increased amount of time a project manager can expect to spend managing communication.
Once your communication management plan is underway, it’s important to evaluate your process to ensure it's effective. Proper monitoring is what enables you to iterate upon your processes as necessary.
Monitoring should include checking that communications were sent when they were planned, whether they were received by the appropriate audience, and if the message was clearly understood by recipients. Adding details to your plan on your intended monitoring method and frequency is helpful for many project managers.
Additionally, seeking feedback from stakeholders and team members on your overall process is one of the best ways to ensure your communication plan is working for everyone involved.
A project management software solution can also be an extremely useful tool during monitoring, as they provide a centralized way to manage critical information like budgets, invoices, tracked time, and tasks – all things that you’ll likely want to include updates on in your reports and memos.
There’s no debate that project managers have a lot on their plate, which makes all-in-one project management tools that can help lighten the load incredibly valuable. We’d like to introduce you to Rodeo – an intuitive tool that helps you keep track of every stage of your project’s lifecycle to ensure project success.
Want to check in on team progress without having to bug your teammates for an update? Our planning feature shows you exactly what tasks each employee is tackling that day and you can even see the amount of time they’ve tracked toward each task.
Need an easy way to answer client questions about project progress? Rodeo’s reporting feature provides detailed reports on insights like employee productivity, time registration, and profit margins. Just imagine how this could make your life easier.
Plus, Rodeo’s functional in-app messaging feature allows you to effortlessly communicate with team members without having to purchase and integrate an additional software tool.
Here’s a look at some of our other key features:
Budgets & Expenses: Rodeo prompts you to begin your projects with a budget to ensure that your projects are always profitable. The budgeting feature allows you to plan the necessary activities and allocate resources on day one to prevent overspending.
Estimates: Send professional and customizable project estimates to clients straight from the Rodeo platform. Rodeo generates an estimate from the budget you’ve already built, saving you time and making it easier to get client approval.
Invoicing: Rodeo’s invoicing feature streamlines the billing process by allowing you to send customizable invoices to clients directly from the platform according to project phase, estimate, or actuals. The platform also supports automated recurring invoicing so you’ll never forget to bill a client again.
Effective communication is notoriously difficult for teams working on complex projects with several moving parts. The best way to keep your project communications organized is by developing a detailed plan and utilizing a software tool to keep all of your project information in one centralized place.
With proper project communication, your team will find it easier to make deadlines, keep clients updated, and produce high-quality deliverables.
We hope this blog has left you with a better understanding of the communications skills necessary for project managers, what should go into your communications management plan, and how to implement a solid communications process.
If you’re looking for ways to improve your project communications, we encourage you to take advantage of Rodeo’s 14-day no-strings-attached free trial. Or if you’re still not sure how Rodeo can improve your existing workflows, allow us to show you by scheduling a commitment-free personalized demo.
Originally published on July 7, 2021, updated on September 26, 2022.