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Best Practices of Project Management: Clear Communication

written by: Joe Taylor Jr. • edited by: Michele McDonough • updated: 7/6/2011

It's tempting for project sponsors and stakeholders to be vague about requests and directions. Strong project managers demonstrate best practices by communicating clearly to their own team members while getting clarity from other members of project groups.

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    Best Practices Foster a Winning Culture

    In the previous part of this series on best practices in project management, we detailed some of the communication tools that can be standardized across every project to reach consistent success. This process underscores the impact that project managers can have on their teams when they foster a culture of clear and honest communication.

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    Starting with Clear Communication

    Leading teams, especially on high profile projects, requires modeling best practices. Trade associations and industry standards groups recognize clear communication as one of the most challenging aspects of business. That’s because many workplaces tolerate internal conflict among competing leaders, while using “paper trails" to persecute lower level team members on unsuccessful projects.

    Setting a standard for clear communication puts colleagues on notice that a project manager expects support and commands trust. When sending out meeting notes, experts recommend highlighting key decisions and expectations. “Who is responsible for what, by when, and at whose request?" Instead of paper trails becoming something to fear within an organization, clear communication sets the stage for achievement and collaboration.

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    Asking Probing Questions

    According to productivity experts, team direction can suffer when project managers receive ambiguous comments from managers, sponsors, or stakeholders. Too often, project managers assume the intent of a message, especially in today’s BlackBerry-heavy business world. A quick note requesting a status update can be misread as a task request or, in the worst case scenario, a call to shift a project’s focus.

    One of the best practices in project management is to confirm every request or perceived request in writing. By probing into unclear communication, project managers can be sure they are leading teams on the right track. While managers in some organizations bristle at the notion of confirming every request, project managers that diligently follow this procedure often coach the rest of their teams to communicate more clearly in their initial requests. For organizations where communication is chronic, project managers may prefer to use a standardized project change request form to formalize communication.

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    Encourage Action-Oriented Communications

    Of course, too much communication can become a bad thing. In some organizations, employees often feel the need to report back on every single task they accomplished, every challenge they encountered, and every frustration they faced. While project managers should count themselves lucky to have team members with such open communication principles, the management of passive e-mail and text messages can quickly become overwhelming.

Best Practices of Project Management

Business leaders have identified five critical areas where project management professionals can help their teams excel. These best practices of project management apply to teams in any kind of industry, under any conditions. All five best practices require tactical skills and organizational courage.
  1. Best Practices of Project Management: Following the Project Cycle
  2. Best Practices of Project Management: Standardizing Procedures
  3. Best Practices of Project Management: Clear Communication
  4. Best Practices of Project Management: Dealing with Change
  5. Best Practices of Project Management: Choose the Right Tools