Better communication across all levels allows project leaders to drive productive conversations across different departments and across all roles.
Being an effective communicator has always been one of the most important responsibilities of a project manager.
Providing regular and truthful updates about project progress, speaking to stakeholders in person about risks and issues, being fully present, listening during conversations and adapting the style to suit recipients are all rooted in communication.
Now that projects are increasingly becoming strategic, in order to achieve the results that businesses demand, one of the biggest challenges to successful strategic execution projects is an overall lack of communication.
And one of the crucial ways to avoid this is through strategic project leaders who can manage stakeholders, resolve conflicts, motivate others and collaborate productively by communicating effectively.
Communicating allows team members to make a connection between what they’re doing and the overall success of the organisation – the key to successful strategy execution. By knowing where they fit in the organisation’s overarching business strategy, project members will feel a greater level of commitment and accomplishment. They will also be much more willing to speak up when issues or challenges arise during the project.
Early on in any project it’s important that the strategic project leader establishes and communicates clear processes to the team in order to give added clarity, and that they create a culture in which team members feel enabled and empowered to raise issues.
Finally, by building strategic project leaders and project managers who can improve their standing and build sustainable relationships with key stakeholders and business sponsors, the team’s confidence in its own ability to achieve business targets will rise.
So even though communication has always been crucial to project success – it is now critical to business success. And this is due to the increasingly complex nature of business that organisations now operate in.
The following illustrates how project leaders can use effective communication to create the conditions that allow everyone to take risks, try new approaches and, if necessary, change direction.
This is necessary in order to adapt to the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and uncertain) environment which is the new normal, and which requires new mind-sets and skills sets of the leaders if they are to drive their teams to success:
- Facilitating open communication by attaining permission at the outset to communicate with all parties involved in the project, regardless of hierarchy
- Being free to challenge without authority and not being afraid to disrupt the process for the sake of the project
- Developing a team culture that encourages documentation, leaves no room for assumptions and allows all members to freely communicate their needs and ensure their requirements and expectations are understood
- Setting clear expectations that are always agreed on, with stakeholders asked to define (and redefine as necessary) their own standards for success
- Project managers informing stakeholders if they know a project cannot be completed as planned
- Using business analysis to clearly define a project’s requirements and setting the stage correctly for clear communication within the team
- Communicating the need to redefine a project’s terms so that challenged projects can be saved, or changing strategic direction
It is also worth remembering that communication always works better—and faster—when key members of the project are in the same room—virtual or real. By scheduling frequent, short meetings to keep projects moving, official check-ins do not need to be the only forum for communicating issues.
If meeting times, project parameters or budget goals aren’t working, communication gets things back on track. The more people who work together to resolve issues, the better the relationships they build and the more easily they overcome barriers to successful project completion.
And finally, when obstacles can’t be overcome, key stakeholders and business sponsors who have built relationships are more likely to be understanding about project delays or budget increases.
For a more in depth look at the ways in which project leaders need to be comfortable with this new business environment, read: Building adaptive leaders who can get critical work done.
For more on VUCA, and the skills that help project leaders and their teams navigate unpredictable waters, read the article, Navigating Ambiguity – Using Performance Multipliers to Enhance Team and Project Results