Communicating between teams, stakeholders and individuals is vital for project success. This is especially true when requirements are constantly emerging and shifting in the agile and hybrid project environments in which we find ourselves today (Mastrogiacomo, Missonier & Bonazzi, 2014). Therefore, our communicating methods must accommodate this dynamism and agility.
Here are 3 methods of communicating that have been effective for me over the years.
1. Get out of your office and talk to people--especially when you don't need anything
I have found myself at times in the past as the "room grenade". It's an uncomfortable feeling that you get when people scatter (either physically or emotionally) because they feel like every time you come to talk to them you are going to ask them for something or to follow up on a task that is due. Chances are that they know what they have to do, and they are used to PM's telling them that they either did it wrong or that they haven't done it on time. Rather than waiting to develop a relationship during this stressful time, why not stop by someone's office on your team just to say hello, or to thank them for their work during the last phase or to complement someone on their team. With all of the electronic methods of communication we have today there still is no better way to communicate your entire message and build a relationship than a face to face interaction.
2. Remain consistent with your approach--unless it isn't working
I've had leaders and PMO's direct me to communicate a certain way, and I kept it up even though the results we wanted weren't coming. I've been in project meetings in which people claim not to know what is going on even though I've sent out dozens of progress reports on tasks, milestones and overall project status. Yes, it is up to other professionals to read emails, notifications or reports, but it's also up to us to communicate with people in the method that works for them. How do we mitigate this risk of a message not received? Ask people during the initiation phase "how would you like me to pass you project information?" You may be surprised what you get as an answer to that question. One of the engineers I work with told me "don't send me an email, I won't read it! Either do a "drive-by" my desk or Skype me with something important."
3. Don't wait until the progress report goes out to communicate!
The proliferation of iterative development and smaller increments of capability serves well for communication as well. If I can make contact through electronic methods (slack, chat, email), and personal methods (conversations in person, phone calls) several times during the period, it will only strengthen the impact of a progress report for a person. Most of my teams are working other projects and will remember personal interactions in the hall and by Skype if I reach out to them regularly.
Ultimately, we can know everything about our project--the percent complete, the CV, SV, SPI, CPI, key risks/issues--but if nobody else knows about the information or if they have a partial picture then we are failing our project teams. Project success can be achieved even with poor communication, but it's easier to be successful with stellar communication.
Mastrogiacomo, S. Missonier, S., & Bonazzi, R. (2014). Talk before it's too late: Reconsidering the role of conversation in information systems project management, Journal of Management Information Systems, 31(1), 44-78. doi: 10.2753/MIS0742-1222310103