Resolve Communication Issues in Projects

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After a recent project progress meeting with my team, one of the senior members and I discussed the face-to-face communication challenges we have with other members.

We concurred that when the person receiving information has a low retention, it results in false assumptions and misunderstanding the topic of discussion.

Why is this happening? Why, if the person receiving information confirms that everything is clear, do we still we face communication issues in projects? Usually, it's because taking notes in a meeting is going away, as many team members wait for a meeting recap that notes their action items.

In face-to-face communication, we spend most of the time listening -- and apparently, we're not good at it. We filter what we want to hear and that may result in a broken message.

The senior member of my team referenced earlier is part of the silent generation. He mastered his listening skills in an environment without all of the ways to "replay" conversations that we use today.
In addition, he mentioned that the communication environment was "less polluted" than today, where we are bombarded with things that affect our ability to pay attention.

I asked the senior team member what are the key elements of good listening skills, based on his experience. He recommended:

  • Pay attention to the dialogue and receive the message.
  • Acknowledge the message using positive expressions, such as "OK" or "I see."
  • Confirm the message was received by summarizing what was discussed.
  • Ask questions to the person giving information during and after the discussion.
What are the face-to-face communication challenges you have experienced with your team? Do your team members pay attention when you speak?

Posted by Conrado Morlan on: March 08, 2012 12:02 PM | Permalink

Comments (8)

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Susan Gray, PMO
Briefly, in my experience face-to-face misunderstandings surface when there are missing priorities. The receiver acknowledges the information, but does NOT acknowledge or already understand their order of priorities.

Recap can be the magic word. "Do you understand?" "Yes." "Then recap or explain me what has just been said."

Ok, it's more labour intensive and not suited for large meetings but it puts the finger on the pulse!

Rikki Newman
Although I am not yet in project management, I have done many projects whilst at University where team communication has been key to completing group units. I have always found that ending a meeting with a list of action points helps reiterate what each member is required to do.

Personally, I prefer to have grouped lists of related incoming information so that I can easily and quickly carry out any required tasks. The use of technology enables me to switch, change and create these lists with ease, especially with the use of cloud computing.

Personally this is where I believe the future of true collaboration lies: providing all members with the latest and most important pieces of information across any device they are using, hopefully eliminating the omission of crucial information during a meeting.

However, I also believe that there is still a lot of importance in still having face-to-face meetings. The area to work on is the ensuring of task clarity and the availability of current information after the meeting.
Communication is arguably the ONLY thing we do as project managers and is therefore the most important thing that we do. I agree with the challenges around face to face communications. Add to that project teams that are dispersed and the communication challenges can get pretty complicated quickly!

Deepa Chera
In a face-to-face communication, the major challenges that I view are to maintain proper eye contact and to deliver required body language which lie on both the project manager and the team members.

The project manager should ensure to have eye-contact with others so that he receives the attention from others and that enables him to communicate with ease. If he always looks into his laptop or the projecting screen, that cannot grasp the listeners' attention and whatever is communicated gets lost in the air. Also, the listeners need to acknowledge the speaker by their body language, for eg., by constantly nodding his/her head which indicates that the listeners are able to understand and interpret what is being communicated thereby setting up a clear communication channel.

Marc Ambit
I would personally suggest that you deliver to your team's members a short summary of what you just communicated to them in order to make them understand at the end of the meeting which were the important points of the meeting, just in case they missed some.

In fact, if you just add a little description to every bullet point, you'll have the chance to communicate better the scope of the task or the amplitude and exact meaning of what you're trying to tell them.

Jeffrey H. Costa
The question "Did you understand" tends to be ineffective. The answer is almost always "yes", but it could be more accurately read as something like "I surely understood what I understood, I'm just not sure if what I understood was what you intended for me to understand". Maarten's comment, below, shows a "cure" for this problem: "Then recap or explain me what has just been said". If the person who we want to get our message across to is a client or your boss, the something like "What do you think should be our next steps then?" or "What are the crucial points in what we discussed?", would sound better.

Effective project managers have strong communication skills that usually translates to good leadership skills. This is just one of the many problems that can cause a project to fail...

Here is an infographic about problems with projects and has some pmi statistics.

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