Project Management Success: It All Begins with Communication

Published: Jan 24, 2019
Modified: Mar 25, 2020

By AMA Staff

Thirty years ago, Project Management was mostly used by the U.S. Department of Defense contractors and construction companies. Today, just about everyone is using it in one form or another. The rapid rate of change in technology and the marketplace can put pressure on the traditional organizational structure, which usually is highly bureaucratic and typically cannot respond fast enough to the changing environment.

Project Success Begins with Communication
It is often said that the primary reason projects fail is due to communication mishaps, not technical issues. As a project manager, you are at the “hub” of the wheel, the central focus-point for all the communications that go on surrounding the project. To minimize communication errors, your communication skills must be high in each of the following areas:
—In writing
—In front of a group
—In one-on-one conversations

The successful project leader must develop the ability to:

  • Manage a project and a project team with minimal communication misunderstandings.
  • LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN first in order to understand fully the situation at hand before responding.
  • Delegate to the appropriate people with clearly defined tasks, measurables, deadlines, and expectations.
  • Negotiate fairly, clearly, and persuasively while creating a win-win situation whenever possible.
  • Mediate conflicts to resolution without getting emotionally involved.
  • Question key stakeholders to attain their unspoken needs and wants to ensure that the team is working on the right project, immediately out of the start box.
  • Effectively run a project team meeting.
  • Document the project in writing to team members, peers, clients, subcontractors, and senior management in a way that minimizes, if not eliminates, ambiguity and confusion.
  • Verbally present the project to a variety of audiences.
  • Facilitate the team to generate options on possible project paths to pursue, especially in times of crisis.

Exceptional interpersonal skills are a must
As projects become bigger and more complex, with more functions affected by them, the ability of a project manager to manage both the “big picture” and the “details” is critical for success. In fact, the “easy” part might be to learn the “hard skills,” such as using the project management tools, learning the software, writing the reports, doing the presentations. What becomes more critical is managing all the relationships with and among the people on the project.

As a project manager, much of your time is involved in interactions with people, even if you are a “technical” project manager. Given this, doing some objective self-analysis of how you interact with others and making refinements, if necessary, will serve you well in the long run.

Ask yourself these questions:
—How well do you share what you are really feeling or thinking? Can you do it without the recipient going on the defensive?
—How approachable are you? Do people come to you easily with issues, no matter how severe?
—Are you liked and respected by your team members? Are you easy to get along with?
—How well do you empathize with others when they hit a crisis, either on the project or in their lives?
—Do you prefer to work with others in a group versus alone?

Ability to negotiate and resolve conflicts
How capable are you of aiding two team members in resolving a conflict? Can you negotiate with a functional manager to get the person with the critical skills assigned to your team? As a project manager, your probability of success will increase if you have, or can develop, these skill sets.

Building commitment within the team
Do you know how to optimize the possibility for your team to be committed? To you? To the team? To the goal? To the project?

Building commitment starts with having a clear reason and purpose for being together in the first place. Once that is established, it is always wise to do some relationship building while the team is going through the project definition and planning process.

Underlying this is your understanding of how team dynamics operates. It is not only “getting the job done” that is important—how you get it done counts a lot to most people! There are people who would rather be on a less important project and enjoy working with the team rather than on a “hot” project where there is constant battle, personality issues, and conflict.

You, as a project manager, are a work in progress, developing these leadership communication skills “on the job” and through applicable trainings. Learning these essential skills will help create high commitment by those involved in your projects, thus creating more project successes!

© 2004 American Management Association. All rights reserved.

This article was adapted from the AMA seminar Project Team Leadership: Building Commitment Through Superior Communication.

About The Author(s)

American Management Association is a world leader in professional development, advancing the skills of individuals to drive business success. AMA’s approach to improving performance combines experiential learning—“learning through doing”—with opportunities for ongoing professional growth at every step of one’s career journey. AMA supports the goals of individuals and organizations through a complete range of products and services, including seminars, Webcasts and podcasts, conferences, corporate and government solutions, business books and research.