The latest Pulse of the ProfessionTM report from PMI shows that ineffective management puts US $135 million at risk for every US $1 billion spent on a project. A massive 56% of that is at risk due to ineffective communications. In fact, your project might even fail as a result of poor communication. The study shows that one in five projects don’t meet their original goals and business intent because of communication problems. Ouch.
OK, you might not be spending billions on your project, but if we go by these figures, a big portion of your project budget could be wasted due to poor communications. You would have thought that the importance of good communication is something that stakeholders at all levels would be aware of, and that they would work hard to make sure that project objectives and benefits are adequately communicated so that everyone knows what they are working on and why.
Talking about benefits
The study shows that the majority of business owners think they are communicating benefits. However, the project managers working for them disagree! Just over 40% of project managers say that business benefits are not communicated effectively by senior managers but 62% of business owners report that they are communicating benefits. Somewhere along the line the message is getting lost. It’s hard to deliver on your project strategy when the teams don’t know why they are working on something and how their contribution ties back to the overall company goals.
Watch your language
Another major finding from the study shows that organizations have difficulty getting the message across because of language problems. It’s not that the project sponsors speak French and the team members speak Chinese: it’s the fact that project and portfolio management has its own ‘language’ and these terms aren’t always understood by the people you are working with. Technical projects especially can end up with a jargon all of their own, and let’s not get started on acronyms…
The data from the PMI research shows that on average four out of five projects that are considered to have communicated well (that is, with clarity, detail and in language that the audience can understand) meet their original business goals. When communication on projects isn’t clear and doesn’t include the relevant detail, just over half of projects will meet those goals. So getting the communication right does make a difference.
Create a communications plan
One of the easiest ways to address communication problems is to have a communication plan for your project. High-performing businesses use formal communications plans on their projects for 68% of projects compared to 38% of projects that have communications plans in low-performing businesses. High performers also use them more effectively: more than three times more effectively, actually.
Get the timing right
Part of a good communications plan is setting out timescales for when project messages will be shared and planning how they will be shared. High-performing organizations, according to PMI, deliver their project communications in a timely manner nearly 80% of the time, compared to low performers who only get it right just over 40% of the time.
Choosing the right vehicle for your message is also important. It’s no good sharing updates by text message if your stakeholders work in an area with no cell phone reception, or publishing project status reports on an intranet site no one ever looks at. Organizations that do well choose an appropriate setting or media for the message about 80% of the time, and organizations that don’t get such good results get it right about half of that: 40% of the time.
As you can see, if you want to perform well and not put your project at risk, managing your communications plan, messages and media effectively are very important.
Improve your chances of success
You’ll have more chance of project management success if you address these points and really work on communication within project teams and between the Project Management Office and the rest of the business. Cut out the jargon so that your communication is clear. Check that people have understood what you are talking about – don’t assume. Produce a communication plan and stick to it. And keep reiterating the benefits in words that everyone can understand.
This is essential if you are working on something that will result in business change, like introducing Earned Value Management or new portfolio management practices. If people don’t understand what is being done and why, then there is a risk that they go back to their old ways of working. That jeopardizes your investment and is, of course, a colossal waste of time and effort. Why spend time introducing improvements if they don’t last? Good communication can minimize that risk and maximize your chances of success, so dust off that communication plan and get communicating today!