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Definitely more than just “BLAH-BLAH“– Success Factors of Project Communication


Project communication is just superficial “blah-blah”. A persistent prejudice in project business. And I am personally terribly bored to hear that. I tell all critics and grumblers: project communication is much more.

What do you think are the main reasons for project failures? If we started a non-sector-specific survey among project managers and project leaders, “deficient or poor communication” would be one of the top answers. Not a surprise for me. A survey published by the “Gesellschaft für Projektmanagement (GPM)” in 2008 confirms this. More than 60 % of the respondents say that poor communication is the reason for a project failure. 85 % of the project leaders also confirm in a survey by Katja Nagel (2012) that communication is an important factor for project success.

Trends in working life challenge project managers. We deal with a constantly growing project orientation in companies, which requires a high level of flexibility, dynamics, a variety of work types and networking. Static and structured organizational forms are now virtual and temporary. This has also an effect on project communication. Simply labelled as a nice “small talk”, the potential of and requirements for project communication are often not recognized or underestimated. It is, however, considerably more than just writing a few “nice emails” – yes, I have even heard that, too. Prof. Ralf Reichenwald (2012) from the TU in Munich puts it in a nutshell: “Communication is also leadership – and leadership is the greatest part of project management work. In this respect, project communication is a central success factor in project management” Based on my work experience, I would like to give you the following advices, with which you make your project communication more successful:

1. The Communication Concept –plan early!

Every project communication starts with a communication concept. It is your bible, when it comes to planning and implementing of communication measures. But early, please! Thoughtful measures need a long time in advance. Basically, the communication concept documents the project background, the targets and the communication measures within a project. At the lowest level of detail, target groups are defined, targets are set, key statements are defined, communication channels are selected and a budget frame is fixed. To present this in a visual and transparent way, establish a communication matrix that shows when and through which channels you plan to communicate with your target groups. Subject to each project phase, the communication concept also defines how the project-internal communication within the team should take place. When are jour-fixe meetings? Which communication channels are established? When will workshops be held? A project leader or the person responsible for project communication must develop a sense for relevant topics and important information.

2. The Stakeholder – how to change being affected into being involved!

Stakeholders have an important position in the project – thus, I want to consider them separately. Someone who wants to lead a project successfully, needs to know who else is a part of the project team (in addition to his own team). Stakeholders are internal and external people that  will be affected directly or indirectly by the project. A method to identify the stakeholders, is the stakeholder analysis that aims to identify which persons can have both a positive and a negative impact on the project. Persons and groups are categorised and analysed with respect to their values, impacts and concepts/ideas. Thus, it is possible to answer the following questions: Who are my supporters? Who are my strongest critics? In this way, for instance, Mr. Schmidt – a pessimistic interface partner – can be thoroughly informed and got on-board. A stakeholder analysis is the basis for a customized and target-group specific project communication.

3.The Project Marketing – give your project a face!

A  project needs convincing marketing. Advertise your project – within the project team, within the company or maybe even in public! How does this work?

  • Give your project a catchy name. Acronyms or word compounds are perfect for this. For instance, change “Private-Municipal-Synergy-Projects” into “PMSP”. There are no limits to your creativity.

Design a project icon or key visual. Visuals say often more than a thousand words and you can combine the project content into one visualization. Breathe new life into dry content. The emphasis

  • here is “the simpler, the better”. You can incorporate the project icon into all presentations, giveaways or decision templates. Thus, a project icon is the perfect tool to facilitate identification with the project for all persons involved. However, I urge you to seek for professional assistance by an agency or a service provider! Amateurish-seeming graphic debuts quickly appear unprofessional and miss the target.

  • Give your project a positive image. Use articles in employee magazines, the intranet or additional forums for communication in order to promote your project and to create acceptance for ist goals.

4. The interpersonal communication – develop your soft skills!

Since, especially in projects, a successful teamwork is the key to success, basic knowledge of interpersonal communication belongs to the fundamental equipment of a project leader. Poor communication between the project leader and the team can lead to misunderstandings and have a negative impact on the relationships between all parties.

In this respect, I would particularly recommend the following:

  • Verbal and non-verbal communication go hand in hand. Please do not forget that you send signals with your non-verbal communication, too. Besides, no answer is also an answer.
  • Listen to your team! Communication is not only top-down.
  • Phrase your statements clearly and simply.
  • Address unpleasant topics. This is the only way to settle conflicts.
  • Provide respectful feedback. Praise and constructive critic strengthen the collaboration and improve the quality of work results. Project communication is a challenging, demanding but – above all – responsible task that contributes significantly to the project success. Communication is the key to success! It is worth the investment.
  • Our TEAMWILLE experts will be pleased to support you in establishing a professional communication for your project, because without communication everything is nothing.
  • Conclusion

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