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communication_fail

Avoid miscommunication in your project

A project manager is expected to monitor resources, coordinate tasks and manage scope, all while juggling the needs of clients and colleagues. A good project manager will be familiar with many aspects of a project and the expected issues, but a great one will know it inside and out, accounting for the unexpected too.

A sharp focus and dedication to detail are fundamental for a successful career in project management. It is best to head off miscommunication to stop small errors from becoming a large problem down the track. For this reason alone, it is important for project managers to lead with an approach that actively avoids misunderstanding.

Attention to detail

Research into a project should be undertaken as early as possible. Any ambiguities need to be addressed immediately to provide clarity from the outset. Establishing a culture of in-depth understanding ensures that a question raised is relevant, and the answer kept clear and consistent.

Leading a project means that a broad scope of tasks must be accounted for. All delays, including the unforeseen, should be identified before they become a problem. Though unique situations are inevitable, a more considered approach will help set the foundation for a smooth project beginning to end.

Detail is a project manager’s greatest weapon against miscommunication. Identifying the key points and highlighting their importance will elevate the understanding of your team, and ensure everyone is equipped to move forward.

Align the project with a business case

An effective project manager will work to ensure the project aim is aligned completely with client needs. This is the surest way to avoid misunderstanding, particularly when the project is long-term or involves a large team. It can be easy to lose focus on the end goal if there is no clear objective to return to.

Set tasks should be specific, measurable and above all, timely. Elements that relate to return on investment and respond directly to the client goals are a priority. A leading project manager will not only pay attention to these details but ensure that they are kept at the forefront of operations. Tasks with a clear outline and communicable resolution will be better understood by those working on it.

Perhaps the best way to promote this principle is to hold regular meetings covering essential messages. A team can be allocated to dictate notes on what is discussed and decided upon. Points can then be emailed to all those present to confirm an understanding across the board. Open communication guarantees that your team is kept on the same page.

Keep focused

It’s no secret that many project management professionals find it hard to remain focused among a barrage of additional requests and sideline jobs. These small tasks can sometimes add up and largely impact time for set tasks. Good communication relies on a team’s awareness of individual roles and capacity; knowing exactly what your colleagues are working on will help to avoid any clashes.

Activity planning platforms are excellent tools that encourage a greater focus. Users can dictate clear time slots for day-to-day tasks, which colleagues can then access. The ability to see if someone has time to take on an additional workload helps to maintain strong work ethic.

Intrinsic to this is the implementation of project breakdowns and milestones. When a runner can’t see the finish line they can slow down or become distracted. The same goes for your team members, where an acknowledgement of achievement could make all the difference.

Involve the stakeholders

Your team is not just made up of those you sit beside, it also extends to your client. It’s important that project managers invest in their relationships with stakeholders by involving them. Leading project managers will always account for different ways of hearing, relaying and processing information.

Clients need to be updated in a way that works best for them, and where appropriate, involved directly in the project. It goes unsaid that they may have unique knowledge that could be useful to you as a project manager. By taking a more connected approach, miscommunication between all parties can be neatly avoided, and the purpose driving the project made clear.

As a whole, the successful completion of a project is due to more than just the long list of tasks carried out. Demonstrating accountability and a communicable approach is what brings it across the finish line, and will set you apart as a leading project management professional.

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Helen Sabell is the Principal of the College for Adult Learning. Passionate about adult and lifelong learning, she has designed, developed and authored many workplace leadership and training programs, both in Australia and overseas. Helen also works with a select group of organisations consulting in people management and development, education and change.
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