Project Management

Project Communication: Why Is It So Hard?

Southern Alberta Chapter

Mike Griffiths is a consultant and trainer who help organizations improve performance through shared leadership, agility and (un)common sense. He maintains the blog

We all know the theory: Communications are critical to project success. You have probably heard advice such as communicate something “five times in five different ways” for it to stick, but why is it so hard?

If people would just listen—or read what we send them—then communications would be easy, right? This may seem a reasonable assumption, but because we are part of the system, we are also part of the problem.

Getting information from one person’s head into another’s is a long chain of events with conversions and noise within the process. Like rolling a ball downstairs hoping it will land in a cup at the bottom, there are lots of things that can go wrong along the way.

Communication and Project Failures
Effective communication is essential for project success. PMI research suggests communication breakdowns account for 30% of project failures. Some online discussions attribute 100% of project failures to communication failures.

The variation in percentages stems from how we classify issues such as changing project objectives or poorly articulated requirements. Some people classify them separately from communication failures, others as a type of communication breakdown. Either way, communication is a critical skill for any project manager, but we rarely discuss the process.

The Communication Chain
Several widely used models …

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Don't ever take a fence down until you know why it was put up.

- Robert Frost