In any type of project, across all industries, the secret to success is communication. If you accurately capture the scope of the project, communicate it quickly and efficiently, and follow up with effective dialogue, the project will be far more likely to be successful.
The question is, which strategies and approaches can you employ to improve project-based communication in your team?
Key Tenets of Effective Communication
Effective communication is based on a handful of core principles:
- Accuracy. Your wording should be as accurate as possible. If it’s ambiguous or misleading in any way, it could lead to miscommunication.
- Completeness. It’s also important that your team members have all the necessary details to do their job. If you leave out key facts, or if you reserve some information for a later follow-up, it could result in a problem.
- Clarity. An accurate, complete message still won’t mean much if it doesn’t make sense to the person reading it. If it’s full of technical jargon, or if it’s worded in a clunky way, it could fall on deaf ears.
- Conciseness. Messaging should also be as concise as possible, packing lots of meaning into a fewer number of words. Shorter messages are more effective, with less room for misinterpretation, and they take less time to write and to read.
Our strategies will attempt to emphasize these principles.
How to Improve Project-Based Communication
These strategies are your best choices for improving project-based communication:
- Use the right project management software. Your first goal should be incorporating the right software for your team to use. The best project management software apps available provide a number of features that assist in communication; they’re intuitive, meaning they’re easy to learn and master. They offer many different modes of communication, including conversational threads and instant message groups. They also have built-in tracking and analytics tools so you can get a better feel for the ebb and flow of your projects.
- Establish and enforce clear roles and responsibilities. One of the biggest communication hurdles to overcome in any team is figuring out who’s responsible for which types of communication. For example, let’s say a project manager, an account manager, and a few team members are included in an onboarding session with a new client. Who is responsible for entering the project in your project management software? Who is responsible for creating, naming, and assigning tasks? Should you be exhaustive in your descriptions, or assume everyone still has notes from the meeting? There’s room for debate on all these points, but no matter what, you should have clear protocols and workflows in place. Document them, so there’s no ambiguity in who’s responsible for what.
- Use paragraph breaks and lists. Whether you’re writing out a description of a project, drafting an email, or conveying ideas via chat, you should be using clear paragraph breaks, bulleted lists, and numbered lists to organize your ideas. These formatting options provide more white space for your readers, making your text easier on the eyes, and forcing you to organize your thoughts before writing them down. These formatting methods are also easily scannable, so after a first read-through, your audience can return to your work and quickly pick up on its main points.
- Understand the strengths and weaknesses of each channel. Your project management platform will serve as a central hub for most of your project-based communications, but it won’t (and shouldn’t) be the only communication platform you use. You should also incorporate email, phone calls, video chats, and other mediums if and when necessary. The key to effective utilization here is understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each channel; for example, text messages are fast but limiting, and conference calls are good for dialogue but are hard to record.
- Limit and focus meetings. Meetings are sometimes necessary, but they often take up an unnecessary amount of time because they’re overlong, unfocused, or feature too many participants. Limit meetings wherever you can, cutting down on meeting time, limiting the number of attendees, and keeping each meeting focused on one key idea. You’ll be amazed at how much time you can save.
- Acknowledge and analyze miscommunications. No matter how careful you are, eventually, something will be miscommunicated within your team. When this happens, acknowledge the mistake, and use a root cause analysis to figure out what happened. Did someone forget one of their responsibilities? Was an inappropriate channel used? Figure out the issue, and try to prevent it from happening in the future.
Improving communication is an iterative process and one that depends on the performance of your team overall, as well as the performance of individuals within that team. Take your time as you experiment with new workflows and communication standards, and pay attention to how your team effectiveness improves.