3 Simple Truths for IT Project Communication

The single most important component of project management is communication. Communication is also the one area discussed by PMI and the PMBOK the least and largely left to the imagination of Project Managers. The Standish Group produces a report titled “The Chaos Report” in which they review IT Projects and various aspects of managing projects in IT. For years, the ratio of successful projects against the whole has been at or below 1:3 – that is only one out of three projects are successful. Up to 81% (in one survey) of IT Projects are unsuccessful for one reason or another.

In the forums presented by the Project Management Institute, and featured in PM Network magazine, there are surveys that cover a wide range of topics. One of these was “Why Projects Fail”. Out of 193 respondents, 167 of these said that communication related issues were the primary cause of failure in their projects.

So, not to understate the point – this is a giant, vital and clear project success factor you have to become an expert in if you hope to deliver projects.

There are a few truths about project communication that go without saying:

First, you are definitely not the only person involved in communication on a project. While as the IT Project Mechanic you spend 90% + of your time communicating in some form or fashion, you are but a small part of the overall talking, writing and creating that takes place. As such, even if you communicate perfectly there are good odds you will still have communication issues in your project. Team members, stakeholders, sponsors, customers, vendors and suppliers are all a part of the mix. It is unlikely that every team member will be an expert in effective communication.

Second, communication greatly depends on translating our thoughts into words and expressions. I dare say that practically all communication is tightly linked to how we think and perceive the topics we’ll transmit messages about. This sounds too simple, but if you are frustrated or upset with someone, it’s quite difficult to keep that from filtering into the communication stream you’ll produce. Communication within a project requires you to make a concerted effort to not only watch what you say and write, but to also make every effort to keep the emotional bustle of a project at arms length.

Our teams aren’t trying to aggravate us intentionally, nor are deadlines and tough talk from managers intended to reflect on your character or performance. All these messages are complex and can be taken differently at different levels. As an IT Project Mechanic, you must be confident in your skills, training and knowledge. Understand that people are, for the most part, too wrapped up in their own reality to consider yours. Remaining above the fray will allow you to see dynamics in your team that would be invisible if you considered some messages to be critiques.

Third, there are some members of your team that will not be reached with great communication. Regardless of your attempts to deliver excellent communication, there will be those that can’t or won’t listen or respond. Some team members will stink at communicating – and some of these will be your managers. All you can do is make the effort to create a culture and environment of great communications and work to translate those messages that don’t meet your standards for excellence.

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