The importance of communication

Good communication is a foundation to building confidence and trust.

Where there is confidence and trust it is easier to work together and overcome adversity. Where there is good communication everyone will know what is expected of them and when it is expected.

You also need to build trust in order to have good communication

image showing the benefits of good communication

If you want to be agile in your projects then it is critical to have high levels of trust, collaboration/team work and communication throughout the project organisation.

What do we mean by good communication in the context of a project?

Here are a few pointers that will indicate what we mean by good communication.
1: There is a high level of trust between all members of the project organisation as well as secondary stakeholders.
2: You can see that there is teamwork and collaboration even when the pressure is on.
3: Everyone has a common understanding of what capability the project needs to deliver and why it needs to deliver that capability.
4: Everyone understands what product or service will be developed so that the project can deliver the required capability.
5: All requirements can be understood by those that need to understand them.
6: Everyone knows not only what their own responsibilities are in the project, but also the responsibilities of those they need to work with.
7: There is a common understanding and agreement on how work will be carried out.
8: The project status is clear to all stakeholders
9: Individuals know who they need to talk to about any issue

What are some of the indicators that there is trust?

1: There is a comfortable feeling in the work environment.
2: People are pro-active and get involved
3: “Daring to be different” if it will contribute to the good of the project.
4: People talk and laugh with each other in a relaxed manner.
5: You can take calculated risks

Communication is all about conveying information between people in such a way that it is understood as we intend it to be understood. This is the crux of the matter; each individual will receive and interpret the information differently. What you express as an assumption another person may believe that you were communicating it as a fact.

Illustration of a simple communication process
Simple communication model between two people

Remember if the information is not communicated effectively then it is useless at best and more than likely damaging. Many projects fail due to the right information not being communicated to the right people at the right time.

Assumptions and their roll in project failure
I want to draw your attention to “Assumptions”. Assumptions are an inevitable component of project information flows. The very nature of projects is that they are based on certain assumptions.
Problems can arise when individuals and groups take assumptions to be proven facts. When creating a component product or service based on an assumption it is important to note and communicate the assumption. This will enable the team to validate or disprove the assumption at the earliest possible time and take corrective action if need be.

As individuals how can we communicate effectively?

Effective communication starts with listening, observing and understanding.
• Listening and observing cover how we receive information.
• Understanding is how we choose to interpret the information we receive.

You help others to listen and observe by making the information relevant and to the point from their perspective. You get them to understand by presenting the information in a way that they are unlikely to misunderstand.
As we are all individuals and different, the chances are that each of us will interpret each scenario differently if given the chance. This is why documenting requirements using a standard pattern is very useful. It gives us a consistent way of describing what we want and how we will test that it is done to our satisfaction, see the article on US&ATs

Each person has some responsibility in the delivery and understanding of information

As a general rule each person in the project organisation should take responsibility to find out and know the answers to the following questions:

1. What information do I need, to do my job
2. Who do I get the information from for me to do my job
3. How can I communicate with others so they will understand me?

Create a simple communication strategy to enable effective communication during a project.

Write up a simple communications strategy that gives guidance in relation to the following questions.
1. What to communicate
2. Who will communicate and who should the communication be directed at.
3. How to communicate
4. How NOT to communicate
5. When to communicate

In the communication strategy use roll names rather than referring to individual people so that the strategy remains relevant when individuals leave or join the project team. Remember the strategy is there for guidance it is not a hard and fast rule book.
The communication strategy should cover general communication and specific management areas within the project such as risk management, quality management and requirements management.

Outcome of effective communication:

1. Creates a common understanding as to the reasons for doing a project and which strategic objectives will be fulfilled or partially achieved as a result of the project or programme.
2. Keeping the decision-makers well informed so they can make appropriate decisions in a timely manner.
3. Enables project team members to carry out their activities at the right time and to the agreed level of quality.
4. Maintains the interface with key senior stakeholders, keeping them engaged and informed.
5. Maintains alignment of the project or programme with the organisation’s strategic direction.
6. Enables the provision of clear leadership and direction throughout the project or programmes life.
7. Identification and authentication of assumptions behind conflicts.

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