Communication is widely known as the most important activity and competency of a project or programme manager; after all, it is the basis of all relationships whether personal or professional. Communication is also the first competency based on the Levin-Ward Competency Model.
Here is the list of the key personal competencies for programme managers:
- Building Relationships
- Thinking Critically
- Embracing Change
While there will be a corresponding blog for each of the above-mentioned competencies, this article will be focusing solely on communication.
I agree that communication must be on top of the list. The higher up in the career hierarchy or the more responsibility you have in a project or programme, the more important the communication aspect. Project management research has shown that an effective project manager communicates approximately 90% of his or her time in one form or another during a project. In programme management, communications consumes an even greater amount of time…so here’s hoping that you are a stickler for effective and efficient communication!
Keep in mind that communication is not limited to talking to stakeholders in meetings. It encompasses the entire communication spectrum including email, letters, internal/external correspondence, not to mention the facilitation of presentations and meetings to align people towards the programme objective(s), values and benefits. As it turns out, communication is the main job scope for a PMP and a programme manager; and if you lack in communication skills, then it is time to step up your game and become and expert in it. Your job may depend on it!
The significance of efficient and effective communication is wide; it can make or break a project, it can cost or save time or money depending on how it is delivered. It comprises of project politics, emotions, cultural differences, and personal interests all which has a huge influence towards the programme. Misunderstandings can have huge ramifications to the programme outcome and create unnecessary delays, staff turnover, glitches and additional costs as well. Therefore, clean, concise and consistent communication is of the essence.
Based on my own programme I am conducting to project stakeholders on communication, here my suggestions to improve communication:
Be proficient in whatever language the project is being conducted
I am a Swiss working in a predominantly English-speaking country, and my strength is more with numbers. Communicating competently in English is a continuous learning process for me.
The written and spoken language conducted in a project should be on a proficiency level so that normal communication is possible to clearly convey the context and content of the message. If this is not given, go for a language class or classes. I personally listen to audio books a lot. This helps me to learn new words, listen to proper English and get used to the language.
Formal and informal communication must be differentiated
Emails or letters should be clear and concise in formal writing so that there are no misunderstandings. If this is not possible, go to a coach who will go through your emails and letters to teach you essay-style writing and correct your errors. This is one of the fastest learning curves I know.
For the political and cultural part of the communication, you need to show curiosity and an open mind
Whatever it is you hear, see and feel, don’t judge too fast about good and bad, right or wrong. Some languages, such as Mandarin and Cantonese have hundreds of ways of saying a phrase, and they are often communicated through stories or sayings in keeping with the context of their language and culture. Collect more information and more opinions. Make your conclusion once it is time or you feel comfortable to make a conclusion, and not a moment sooner. Use your words wisely. Use words which represent the ultimate objective of the programme or project and which provides guidance and support towards the positive outcome of the programme or project.
As a programme manager communication is key
In other words, you need to keep in constant communication with groups, teams, clients and all of your stakeholders. One must lose the fear of speaking in front of people, though this is more easily said than done. I highly suggest going to toastmasters and learning public speaking, or taking some other form of public speaking course. Once you complete 100 impromptu speeches and many more presentations, you will feel comfortable talking in front of people. There are also public speaking video courses available. These video courses will give you great examples about public speaking and you can learn in front of the mirror or your own computer camera.
For a deeper sense of communication, I suggest to learn NLP or Neuro Linguistic Programming
NLP might not be for everyone, but it has supported me in honing my communication skills tremendously. You will learn great insights about yourself and the map you are operating on. If you understand the deeper sense of communication, you will be able to listen much better, create incredible rapport and your communication will have a much higher impact on your audience. For a start, you may want to listen to an audio book. However, to learn it properly, I suggest you join training in your region as NLP Practitioner.
In summary, good communication is a mix of many varying communication media and channels. Using only one method of communication, such as flooding ones email inbox, is not ideal or efficient communication. In fact, it can cost you time, money and clarity in the long run. Sometimes simply having a short meeting or a phone call has a better result than sending an email, so don’t rely solely on one channel of communication. The result of good communication is that the programme team and all the stakeholders involved understand the context and the content and provide the necessary and correct feedback.
Good luck communicating.