Project management requires a plethora of skills and attitudes. You have to be an excellent timekeeper, an adept risk assessor, and should be an expert in your field with a deep knowledge of your business and the industry you are operating in.
But chief amongst these skills is communication. Effective communication can make or break your project. Without clear guidance, your employees can easily go astray and productivity can grind to a halt without your knowing it.
Here are five reasons you need to prioritize effective communication to keep your projects from failing.
Teamwork Becomes Tiresome
Teamwork used to be disregarded in corporate culture. After all, if everyone just does their jobs correctly, then there’s no need for interdepartmental communication, right? In reality, people aren’t robots and even those who complete the most menial of tasks should be involved in communications and treated as part of the wider team.
Today, it’s easier than ever to encourage teamwork in your organization. Platforms like Microsoft Teams and Slack make it possible for folks from all departments to leverage the power of interdepartmental communication, improving trust between teams and giving employees a chance to better understand their roles within the organization. In the long run, teamwork across teams can also help you spot issues early and respond to challenges with creative solutions.
It is important to note that too much emphasis on teamwork can equally derail your project. This notion is supported by Chidiebere Ogbonnaya’s analysis of 664 British workplaces. Ogbonnaya, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Sussex Business School, found that while teamwork positively correlated with productivity, teamwork without proper communication became a major cause of anxiety amongst employees.
As a project manager, the takeaway is clear: you need clear, timely communication to create the right conditions for teamwork. This will improve creativity across your teams and clearly delineate each employee’s responsibilities.
Confusion around Responsibilities
As Ogbonnaya’s analysis shows, confusion about responsibilities can cause anxiety and reduce productivity. Without a clear understanding of responsibility, some employees may take on more than they can handle, and will quickly become overwhelmed.
Confusion around responsibilities can also lead to key tasks going unfulfilled. This poses a serious risk to the completion of your project, as you’ll have to play “catch up” to make up for the confusion around responsibilities.
Fortunately, establishing responsibilities is usually straightforward. An effective one-to-one meeting before and during your project will give you time to reinforce employee responsibilities. Just remember to listen to your employees when holding one-to-one meetings, as you may find that they are already overburdened with responsibilities and are facing mounting stress and anxiety at work.
Stress is one of the most misunderstood ideas in project management. Some PMs mistakenly believe that excess stress is part of the territory of project management, while others believe that stress should be avoided at all costs. In reality, both approaches fail to appreciate individual responses to stress and underestimate the value of effective communication.
Kate Price, an organizational consultant and executive coach, explains that “solutions [to stress] must address the needs of the individual.” This means that, as a project manager, you have to get to know those that you are leading on a personal basis. Some of your employees will thrive under heightened short-term stress, while others will simply get their wires crossed if you place them under too much pressure.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should start experimenting on the individuals who make up your teams. Simply placing an employee under stress and seeing how they perform might work in professional sports, but it is unlikely to produce the desired results in corporate settings. Instead, check in with your team on an individual basis, and consider creating a communication plan that helps your team manage their stress levels.
Poor communication leads to confusion, mistrust amongst teams, and raised stress levels. Unsurprisingly, these outcomes cause productivity to plummet and deadlines to be missed. Missed deadlines quickly compound issues during the completion of a project, and can spiral into further stress, finger-pointing, and frazzled employees.
Fortunately, you can use key performance indicators (KPIs) to assess day-to-day productivity and improve communication. When utilized correctly, KPIs give you an honest insight into the general productivity of your workplace and should reflect an accurate assessment of each team and employees’ work rate.
You’ll need to act quickly if you notice that your KPIs aren’t being met. Usually, this will involve two-way communication between yourself as the project manager and the team you are leading. They should be able to give you a reasonable explanation as to why KPIs have been missed, but it’s your job to listen and take on board their feedback to ensure that they feel respected and heard.
Customer Experience is Compromised
A loss of productivity due to poor communication will likely impact your short-term bottom line. However, an even worse outcome awaits project managers who fail to communicate effectively: poor customer service.
Poor customer service is a surefire way to turn customers away — particularly in today’s markets, where consumers can quickly find competitors online. As a project manager, you must understand that poor communication flows throughout your company. So, if you fail to communicate regularly and effectively with employees, don’t be surprised to find that your customers are unhappy, too.
Effective communication is your bread and butter as a project manager. Without clear, two-way communication, employees will feel stressed and anxious when working, and you’ll lose out on the benefits that effective teamwork can bring. Eventually, poor communication will capitulate, causing deadlines to be missed, productivity to be derailed, and your customer’s experience to be compromised.