Project management can be a tough job. Managing numerous stakeholders with varying priorities is not an easy task no matter how organized you are, and nothing is more frustrating than getting months into a project and realizing that the output isn’t meeting expectations. While there are many places for a project to go off track, typically, you can trace the trouble to a breakdown in communications somewhere in the early stages of the project. As a project manager, it’s my job to make sure communications go well, which is why I’d like to share with you my top five steps for ensuring project communication success.
SET EXPECTATIONS FROM THE BEGINNING.
My number one rule for project communication success is to clearly outline expectations for the project from the very beginning. What’s the overall goal? What are the exact specifications? Budget? When is the expected date of completion? Everyone needs to be on the same page when it comes to what the final, completed project should look like and when it should be delivered.
BE CLEAR AND CONSISTENT.
This goes hand-in-hand with setting expectations. When putting together specifications for your project, providing feedback or communicating about any expected outcome or deadline, provide as much detail as possible. If you have a hard deadline of October 25, say that, don’t say end of month. If you want a vertical bar graph in your company’s brand colors, specify the exact Pantone or RGB breakdowns for each of them. When in doubt, give more information. You can’t go wrong.
IDENTIFY THE BEST COMMUNICATION CHANNELS AND PROCESSES.
Some people collaborate best in person while others prefer to work remotely. Some teams need weekly, standing meetings to maintain momentum, while others work just fine touching base on an as-needed basis. Whatever way your team works best, it’s important that you identify and communicate that process. As an individual contributor, it’s your responsibility to share with your team the best times and ways to reach you. Knowing that you’re a morning person will ensure no one is expecting you to answer calls or emails at midnight.
I cannot stress this enough on all fronts. Take a deep look at what other commitments your team has during your proposed project timeframe and consider how they could impact it or where your project falls on the list of priorities for your organization. Be sure to look beyond your department and consider changes in other parts of the organization that could impact you, like a major technology upgrade or office move. Communicating these considerations from the get-go will make sure that realistic deadlines are set.