Communication is not easy in private and professional life. We do it every day, but misunderstandings still occur again and again. The famous transmitter-receiver problem lurks seemingly everywhere. Surely you know this problem only too well.
We were not too keen to show the oh so well-known example of the “planned swing” and how far expectation and reality diverge. It perfectly fits the problem we want to deal with in this knowledge article, so here it is.
The effects on the project due to poor communication are thus clearly shown, but why do these problems still occur again and again? One answer would be that the focus is usually on the business and technical challenges. Another explanation would be that most people think they have already discussed everything.
So how shall we deal with communication problems, especially in projects?
In short, professionalizing communication is the solution to the problem. But that is easier said than done. After all, you work on a project with many and, above all, different people. So, in communication, it is essential to create connections with and between the stakeholders. Efficient communication in a project can only occur if the exchange of information and the coordination between the parties involved is smooth, and if everyone agrees to the same goal.
Especially in the initiation phase, the project manager should pay attention to efficient and goal-oriented communication.
The project goal’s description is a core element of the project charter because it describes which goal wants to be achieved. The scope is set by formulating the planned services concretely, but also the services that will not be performed are documented. Only through a clear understanding of the scope do the client and contractor get a basis for the joint project.
Goals are well formulated when it can be checked whether and to what extent they have been met. In this way, the leeway of interpretation is reduced to minimize time and cost-intensive mistakes preventively.
So how do you proceed to professionalize communication and, above all, target-oriented communication? We advise applying the same planning diligence as for the business and technical topics. First, the goals are to be clearly defined, and then considered how to ensure that the individual stakeholders understand them.
The goal of the project is the product. The product (can also be a service) should generate added value for the company, but this value must be quantified. Thereby the project is always in the iron triangle of deadlines, costs, and results. Many of the goals are, therefore, directly linked to these three dimensions.
To clearly define goals, it helps to use tools such as the SMART Framework.
So how do you make sure that the target criteria are SMART?
S - Goals must be specific
M - The achievement of objectives must be measurable
A - It should be attainable for the project team to reach the finish line.
R - The goal must be realistically achievable
T - The target must be timely
SMART is applied as following when defining the target:
Goal: Specifically describe what is to be done and why it is attractive.
Scope of goal: How much of the plan is to be achieved, which should be a realistic and measurable target. You can use this for a target performance and variance analysis.
Time: A scheduled end when the goal is attained
To communicate these goals efficiently, the project manager should decide what is important and for whom. Doing this analysis helps to establish a goal hierarchy of must-be, should-be, and can-be goals. Together with the stakeholder analysis, it is then necessary to set up a communication strategy.
The communication strategy has three areas:
- Project-internal exchange of information, also for coordination processes and to be able to arrange meetings in a result-oriented manner.
- Information management, regulating access to all project documents.
- Project marketing to obtain support from critical stakeholders.
It is essential to communicate the project’s goals in all three areas, according to the requirements of your audience.
Different forms of communication can be used, depending on the area of the communication strategy:
Here in detail:
- The one-on-one meeting: mainly one-way communication, passing on “same information” and answering questions. Especially good at the beginning to gather important information and points of view. This is only one crucial part of the strategy that should be combined with other forms since the effort is too high to communicate via this channel.
- Kick-off and general Meeting: Direct communication between project managers and individual project members. Synchronization of the information status. Consider the kick-off meeting as a teambuilding measure.
- Planning workshop: Joint and interdisciplinary work and interaction. Input from all participants helps to secure commitment. It helps to integrate discussion processes in small groups to get many perspectives.
Although communication is vital in all phases of the project, some things need to be considered at the project’s start.
Here are a few brief remarks:
- Direct communication with people involved in the project because it is vital to get to know each other and develop trust.
- In the beginning, it is essential to achieve a common understanding of goals, the procedure, and the cooperation in the project. Also, understand the responsibility and role allocation.
- It is essential not to overload the people involved in the project with information. Always be considerate of the stakeholder of your project and communicate accordingly. Especially in internal projects which directly affect employees, you don’t want to trigger massive resistance through inconsiderate statements.
The precise goals can and will change in the course of the project. Therefore, it is not too important to get bogged down with the exact definition of the targets, but rather that the communication strategy can react adaptively to communicate changes.