Communication is the lifeblood of a project, and is the project manager’s best and most used tool. But as with all things, there needs to be a balance. Too much communication can be just as debilitating as a lack of it.
Clients and stakeholders need to know what’s going on—for both their peace of mind and to make sure the project is still headed in the right direction. As project managers, it’s part of our job to give these updates on a regular basis—but how do you know when it’s too much?
Here’s a hint: if reporting ever gets in the way of actually executing the project, then maybe you need to revisit your reporting process. Consider automated updates instead, or maybe even give the client access to your project management software.
When you’re drowning in too much data, you can easily fall into “paralysis analysis”, where there is so much information available that it gets in the way of actually making a decision. This is especially risky if you or a team member is getting irrelevant information, such as being put on too many email notification lists. Unchecked, these “FYI” conversations can drown out what you really need to pay attention to.
You need a way to trim the excess. Ideally, you should only receive (and send) information relevant to the parties involved.
Death by Committee
This point is just as much a leadership problem as it is a communication problem. It happens when too many stakeholders want to be in the loop, and expect their opinions to be given as much weight as everyone else. While democracy is an admirable thing, managing a project by committee is not. The noise level gets louder, discussions turn into arguments, and project momentum stalls.
For a project to work, there has to be a single stakeholder representative who will communicate (and ideally, make decisions) on everyone else’s behalf.
As you can see from the above examples, communication needs to strike a proper balance in order to make a team truly effective. Project managers can’t afford to be bogged down by excessive reports, irrelevant information, and conflicting leadership. Once you’re able to channel and control the flow and direction of communication, then you’ll have a better, more efficient project management office.
Image credit, Flickr, Abhi Heredo