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Communication The Key to Successful Project Management

In all elements of work life the most common complaint about an organisation is ‘lack of communication’.

A successful project manager must be a great communicator! Project management communication is a skill that is never perfected, can always be improved and is pivotal in being able to initiate and mobilise a project effectively.

The PMI (Project Management Institute) suggest a project manager should spend 90 per cent of their time communicating!

Source: ©2013 Project Management Institute, Inc. Pulse of the Profession In-Depth Report: The High Cost of Low Performance: The Essential Role of Communications, May 2013.

A project team is generally quite a diverse group of people. Project teams are usually thrust together to deliver a bespoke and unique benefit to an organisation, something new and different to the day to day activities undertaken. This diversity provides a further communication challenge for the project manager.

Project leadership calls for clear communication about goals, responsibility, performance, expectations and feedback.

Successful project management communication is about being there for everyone, being in touch with the real challenges of the project, understanding the real issues within the team who must deliver the project as well as understanding the issues of the sponsors who the team delivers the project for. Being present, visible and engaged with everyone is important – during the good times and the challenging times.

Communication is not only about speaking to and hearing from people, it’s about understanding the complete message.

What language to use, how to convey the message with respect to tone, feeling and body language all play an important role in the communication process.  If these are used incorrectly, the result is often a confused message and misunderstanding of the real issues.

So a successful project manager can only maximise the effectiveness of communication within the team by being prepared to lead by example. A big part of leadership is to be present, and be prepared to communicate with all stakeholders at their respective levels. And to consciously Listen! Listen! and Listen some more!

Projects often ‘fail’ because we simply fail to clearly articulate the vision and the project’s success criteria. This vision must be successfully communicated to each stakeholder and team member. The whole team should be able to visualise the end result, in order to work towards a common goal.

Regular reporting of the project’s progress and status is crucial to the success of the project. Communicating this to all stakeholders in a clear and precise manner is paramount, so that all understand what the key messages are. Diagrams, charts, graphs and tables should be maximised here. The well known saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”  is no less true than when communicating project progress or status.

Effective and efficient project management communication is delivered by first considering the needs of the audience you are intending to communicate with, put yourself in their shoes and anticipate what they need to understand, and then provide that understanding only. Strong presentation skills are essential for communicating project progress and status. The audience needs to be engaged during these presentations to check that the key messages have been received and understood.

Communication methods

Given the organisational and geographical diversity of project teams – it is important to consider all methods of communication. Today’s enhanced technology allows us to communicate easily where ever the team members may be. A communication strategy should be conceived at the project planning stages, so key is its influence on the success of the project.

Communication methods can either be active or passive.

ACTIVE communication methods being those used to communicate in the here and now, for example the use of:

  • Face to Face meetings 
  • Video conference, meeting – one on one, or group
  • Telephone conference, or voice only web conference
  • Webinars, becoming increasingly popular for the delivery of presentation based activities
  • Telephone – good old fashioned call
  • Stand up presentations in person

PASSIVE communication methods would be those which recipients can adopt in their own time, for example:

  • Pod cast
  • Web cast
  • Email 
  • Intranet bulletin boards
  • Blogs
  • Website
  • Project newsletter – paper based
  • Table top presentation

Always ensure that a mix of active and passive methods of communication are used to compliment each other. This should be considered as part of the overall project management communication strategy.


Active listening is arguably the biggest factor affecting effective communication. Our body  language can demonstrate clearly whether we are actively listening. Eye to eye contact is  imperative to active listening. It shows you are genuinely interested and engaged when  someone is talking to you.

Effective communication results in all involved in the project understanding what is being communicated. This comes from spending time with the project team, being fully engaged and prepared to listen and understand the feelings which may be the key driver of the communication process. Project managers really need to have many qualities(good communication skills being one of them) to drive the project to become successful.