How important are communication skills in project management?
Project management, as the phrase indicates involves managing the progression and completion of a group of tasks by a team of individuals in most cases. These group of tasks when executed with combined and coordinated efforts, result in the desired outcome, and here lies the undeniable significance of “Communication” as the backbone of project management. From communicating a project’s vision to delegating tasks, from tackling obstacles to coordinating tasks, communication is the foundation on which project execution works. A part of this involves ensuring that all team members are on the same page when instructions on a task are discussed. Effective communication is important for each team member to understand his/her job responsibilities, freedom and boundaries of decision making. Team members equipped with the skill of effective and efficient communication can avoid conflicts, gain clarity on project progression, save time and be involved in meaningful discussions which can take the project to the next level and make it a success. Finally, communication plays a huge role in a project manager inspiring and motivating his/her team members to come together to give their best.
Was Herb the right person to be assigned as the project manager?
From the case study, it is evident that Herb did not have sufficient prior experience as a project manager. As a project manager, it was Herb’s responsibility to ensure that everyone was on the same page regarding all tasks and schedules. In the early stages of the project or before the project initiation, Herb should have laid out the guidelines of communication and stressed on what is accepted and what is not. As a project manager, Herb should have emphasized that no message be assumed and that clarity in communication is a priority at all stages and areas. Clearly, Herb failed to do carry out his responsibility which led to chaos, confusion, and dissatisfaction among project members. Therefore, in my opinion, Herb was NOT the right person to be assigned as the project manager.
There were communications issues with Alice, Bob, Betty, and Frank. For each communication issue, where was the breakdown in communications: encoding, feedback, and so on?
The breakdown in communication:
Alice: The breakdown in Alice’s communication occurred due to her poor encoding skills. When she delivered her message to Herb, she did not request for a letter of recommendation in any form.
Bob: The breakdown in Bob’s communication occurred because he hadn’t mentioned to Herb that it was necessary for him to give a memo in writing to the engineering team. This is an issue in encoding. The engineering team forgot to run the tests as directed by Herb making it a decoding defect in the recipient.
Betty/Frank: The issue with Betty’s issue deals with both encoding and decoding the message. Herb did a poor job encoding the message and instructing her clearly not to do anything else other than just look at the costs of the procurement materials.
Communication is one of the most important tools of project management. A Project manager should be clear and concise in his/her communication to the team members to be able to do the tasks in right time.
Below points explain the criticality of communication skills in project management –
a) To effectively delegate the tasks and communicate the open questions or queries around them.
b) To clearly communicate the deadlines and track the project progress
c) To communicate important decisions to the team in writing or through emails to maintain as a record for future communications
d) To discuss in team meetings and send minutes of meeting post discussion to list down the action items and decisions
Though Herb had a very strong technical experience as a subject matter expert in R&D and Manufacturing, he worked individually throughout his experience and hardly worked with teams other than the time when he spent with people in project team meetings.
A Project Manager needs to have the following skills and qualities to successfully lead a team towards completion of project. Herb lacks in all these qualities or skills,
a) Understand the importance of clear verbal and written communication
b) Involve the right people responsible for the departments in communicating the important decisions concerning their respective departments.
c) Read through the minds of team members, understand their intentions and react accordingly.
d) If there is a conflict in the decisions of two departments, identify the reason behind the conflict, discuss in length with the teams involved and provide an amicable solution to both considering the project objectives.
Clearly, Herb failed to do carry out his responsibility which led to confusion and dissatisfaction among his project members. Therefore, in my opinion, Herb was definitely NOT the right fit for project manager role.
Communication issues of Herb with team members
Herb and Alice – Herb couldn’t decode the discussion with Alice due to which Herb did not recommend Alice for the promotion. It is about a senior employee’s career and this miss on Herb’s side got him dishonor.
Herb and Bob – Herb didn’t involve Bob in the communication to the engineering technicians which resulted in the workers forgetting what Herb ordered them to do.