Project Success and Communication
What determines the success of any project is significantly related to communication.
Good or great individual contributions to a project can add up to very little if there is not proper coordination and integration (which again relates to communication).
Seriously -it’s all about communication.
Let’s explore this.
You have a team and this team is comprised of some very skilled talent. The individuals all do excellent work and have a strong track record of making superior contributions. The work the individuals do is the culmination of all their skills, expertise, knowledge, learning, and passion. The success of the project depends on each individual’s contribution but more so the coordinated and combined efforts of the team.
Therefore, success depends very significantly on communication.
The team must understand the project objectives and outcomes. This must be communicated clearly so that all team members understand. If the team is made up of a diverse group of individuals then communication becomes even more important as certain understandings cannot be assumed.
Consider an Ice Hockey Team. This team needs to communicate well for sure but certain items are understood without much communication. They know the rules of the game without the need for the leader of the team to communicate the rules. They understand their equipment and have a solid understanding of the objective – to win the game (or to win the Stanley Cup). They all have the same uniforms and are about the same age. Many items that would need to be communicated for a typical business team do not need to be communicated in great detail for an Ice Hockey Team.
If good communication is the foundation for a successful project, what can you do to make sure it’s happening?
Make sure the team members are totally clear on deliverables, process, timeline, and who’s responsible for what— in many cased in writing, before proceeding with even the first step. You may even need to establish the expectations of the individual team members so that you know how to communicate the expectation of the team effectively.
Establish Individual Team Member Expertise
A team is often made up of individual experts. It is important for each team member to understand the expertise of the other members and to know how the expertise fits together for project success. The earlier this is done the better.
Clearly Define Goals
What are the goals of the project? How will success be measured? Regardless of what you do, communicating this is essential. The success of the project depends on outcomes. Define this specifically and communicate the goals and success metrics clearly and often.
Have Weekly Check-In’s
For extended projects and distributed teams, check in at least once a week. Establish the status of key activities. Determine what’s outstanding, and what’s required of the team right now or within the following week. A check-in keeps things on track, and if something’s going off the rails, it’s best to course-correct as quickly as possible.
Stick to the Scope of the Project
If a task/deliverable is not listed in the deliverables and outside the scope of the project then do not allow this to be a distraction. Set a finish-line for every project and always be pushing to reach the finish line.
Define Important Communication Time
If the project requires a lot of instant communication, then block out time for when it is best to communicate in this manner. For example, you might establish your “instant” communication team time from 8-10 EST on Mondays and Thursdays. This will allow for fast responses to e-mails of even working live phone calls.
Have Team Members Re-iterate Assignment in Their Own Words
Do not ask “Do you understand?”. The answer to this question is often yes even if the person does not fully understand. A better approach is to ask “What do you understand?” or “Recite back to me your understanding of the task.”
This avoids misunderstandings.
Allow for All Team Members to Speak Up
The team is made up of contributors and everyone has something to contribute. If you are a team leader and notice that a team member is not contributing to discussion then probe as to why and help facilitate everyone contribution to the communication process.
It’s amazing how much more you will learn from the team by just listening well.
Listen actively (ask questions) and try to establish what’s beneath what they’re saying. Team members will use different words and expression to say the same thing.
I was in a team meeting once with people from Ireland and people from Taiwan. One of the Irish team members made that statement that if we do not get things done by the agreed upon completion date then we would be “pushing up the daisies”. I was watching the Taiwanese team members when this was stated and I knew that none of them understood the meaning of the phrase even though they understood the words.
“Listen” with you ears and your eyes you will often see indicators of communication success or failure.
Even with perfect communication, you can’t guarantee a perfect response from every team member. Teams can still miss deadlines and fail to reach desired outcomes. If a team member is not being professional or not contributing to standards a team leader needs to communicate this with respect and to look for ways to be helpful.
Communication is fundamental to project success. Good communication makes things easier and things go more smoothly and steps accomplished more efficiently. Successful results are rooted in good communication.