You, Project Management, and Communication

By Erin Cheever

Communication. Such a simple word. But is it really that simple? With all of the types of communication used in the business world today it could not be any more complex. So many communication rules. So many communication types. From nonverbal communication to communication's written word, the list is endless, hard to keep up with, and each project or situation deems a particular communication plan to follow. What does your communication plan look like? What are the rules you live by? What must happen, or not happen, to not only make your project really work, but to succeed? 
In this article I will cover the five communication rules I live by when I start a project and what drives it throughout the entire process. 
The Written Word in Communication
While one half of your communication will be oral, the other half will be expressed through written words, such as e-mails, spreadsheets, or reports. When structuring your written forms of communication, there are several different elements that must come into play to make sure your message is clear and concise.
First, you must decide what type of written communication is the best for the situation and decide who your audience is. Will you need to send a simple e-mail? Does the situation call for developing a detailed report? Are you speaking to the owner of the company or to the IT staff? Depending on your audience and structure of your document, your message and tone will vary. 
Second, breaking up your text so that it is scannable and easy to read is very important. You want your recipient to be able to pick out the key information by just scanning the document. 
Third, brushing up on your grammar skills before you start written communication with someone is going to benefit you in the long run. By providing your clients with proofed, error-free writing you can rest assured they will see your professionalism in the project. If proofreading and grammar checking are not your forte, make sure you have someone you work with who can help you make sure the information that you are sending out is planned, organized, and most importantly mistake free. 
Listening Is Key
Most people do consider themselves good listeners, but in actuality, most are not. Sure, they hear what you are saying, but are they really taking in the information that is coming out of your mouth? Do they understand what you are trying to tell them? Listening in the world of communication is just as important as the talking part. In some situations, it is the most important part. You must understand and receive the messages that are coming back to you just as much as the information and messages that you are sending out. Try actively listening to what your clients want. Engage in their needs and understand their wants for the project at hand. Clear your mind of all other thoughts and concerns and know when to be quiet and not interrupt. Follow your active listening plan and show your clients that they and their projects are at the top of your priority list.
Planning Is Essential
A plan. Must we always have a plan when we start a project? No, but if you want to take your project to the next level and celebrate with champagne at the end, then yes, you should always have a plan. A plan doesn't always have to be a detailed strategic or business plan (although it should at the beginning of the project), but you always need to ask yourself these questions: Who needs what, what do they need, when do they need it? How much detail or lack of detail should I provide? Can this be a simple e-mail, or do I need to send a spreadsheet or report along with it? What kind of person am I talking to? What are my obstacles? What are my challenges? Tackle the who, what, where, when, why, and how and you will see the worth of planning before you take action on your project. 
Identifying Your Barriers
There are so many obstacles and barriers, whether they are personality based, culturally based, or politically based, to overcome and acknowledge when you are getting ready to communicate to someone. Realizing that everyone does not require the same amount or even type of information will help you in knowing how to best craft your message and get the answers you need. At Boomer Consulting our knowledge of Kolbe and use of Kolbe A to determine communication styles has helped us in knowing how we might change our communication methods depending on who we are talking to. We have determined that if you can learn to change your communication plan and tailor it to each of your clients based on their learning styles, you can change the way the game is played. 
Beating around the Bush
This rule is simple and something your mom should have told you growing up. Be clear. Be concise. Be direct. Mean what you say, and say what you mean. Period. 

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Everyone has their own set of rules and checklists to follow in order to deliver great communication. Identify your own personal communication plan and watch how you can enhance your communication skills and develop the steps you must take to take your projects further than you could have imagined.

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About the author:
As a project manager for Boomer Consulting Inc., Erin Cheever plans, organizes, secures, and manages resources for the firm's many service and program areas. Along with providing assistance and constant communication with clients and sponsors, she serves as an event liaison.

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