It’s been said that 90% of project management is communication. When you consider all the people project managers must communicate with it’s easy to believe that statistic. In this course, you’ll learn the complete approach to effective project management. We’ll discuss project communications, body language, conflict management, and we’ll look at what the PMBOK Guide has to say about project communications.
Managing project communications is all about the creation, collection, distribution, storage, and handy retrieval of project information. It’s what the project manager does day in and day out. The project manager is at the hub of communications and works with the project team, the project stakeholders, the sponsor, the vendors, and often the public to send and receive communications about the project. It can be exhausting because somebody always needs to tell you something, or you need to tell somebody else something. The key, of course, is to plan how to communicate, and then to share that plan and those expectations at the launch of the project.
Communications is central to project management and, as part of communications management, works with and through all of the other knowledge areas. A poor job of communicating ensures that the other knowledge areas will likely suffer. Communications management is also linked to project stakeholder management – without stakeholders who would we talk with? Stakeholders need and want the project manager to provider project information. Stakeholders will also provide information to the project manager.
Communication is a project manager’s most important skill. Project managers have to communicate with management, customers, the project team members, and the rest of the stakeholders involved with the project. The project manager’s foundation is communication. Without effective communication, how will work get completed, progress reported, and information dispersed?
This course is worth five Professional Development Units (PDUs) from PMI.
Project communications management is a crucial part of project management. Think of all the people that look to the project for communications: project team members, project sponsor, customers, vendors, end-users, and many other project stakeholders.
The project manager needs to be the "hub" of communications in order to successful manage any project. And the larger the project, the more communication requirements you'll experience. In this course we'll discuss everything you must know about communications and project management.
In this first section we'll discuss the importance of communication as a project manager. You'll be communicating practically everyday as a project manager: with your team, vendors, management, end-users, and many other stakeholders. Communication isn't just you providing information, but also receiving information from your customers.
In this section I'll discuss:
The dictionary defines communication as, “the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs.”
It is also defined as, “means of sending messages, orders, etc., including telephone, telegraph, radio, and television,” and in biology as an, “activity by one organism that changes or has the potential to change the behavior of other organisms.”
The effectiveness of your communication can have many different effects on your life, including items such as:
Of course, one of the biggest barriers to written and spoken communication is language. This can appear in three main forms:
There are a few ways to reduce the impact of these barriers.
Robert Greenleaf said, "Many attempts to communicate are nullified by saying too much."
Have you ever heard the saying, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”? It’s true! Try saying these three sentences out loud, placing the emphasis on the underlined word.
Now, let’s look at the three parts of paraverbal communication; which is the message told through the pitch, tone, and speed of our words when we communicate.
When you are communicating, your body is sending a message that is as powerful as your words. In our following discussions, remember that our interpretations are just that – common interpretations. (For example, the person sitting with his or her legs crossed may simply be more comfortable that way, and not feeling closed-minded towards the discussion. Body language can also mean different things across different genders and cultures.) However, it is good to understand how various behaviors are often seen, so that we can make sure our body is sending the same message as our mouth.
Think about these scenarios for a moment. What non-verbal messages might you receive in each scenario? How might these non-verbal messages affect the verbal message?
This is the first goal of this section: to help you understand how to use body language to become a more effective communicator. Another goal, one which you will achieve with time and practice, is to be able to interpret body language, add it to the message you are receiving, and understand the message being sent appropriately.
With this in mind, let’s look at the components of non-verbal communication.
This module will explore the STAR acronym in conjunction with the six roots of open questions (Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?), which will be explored in more detail later on in the course.
The STAR approach means you'll present these items in effective communication:
Let's take a detailed look at this approach now.
Hearing is easy! For most of us, our body does the work by interpreting the sounds that we hear into words. Listening, however, is far more difficult. Listening is the process of looking at the words and the other factors around the words (such as our non-verbal communication), and then interpreting the entire message.
Let’s start out slowly. Here are seven things that you can do to start becoming a better listener right now. Pick a few of them and write them in your action plan.
We discussed open questions a bit when exploring the STAR model earlier. Open questions get their name because the response is open-ended; the responder has a wide range of options to choose from when answering it.
Open questions use one of six words as a root:
Open questions are like going fishing with a net – you never know what you’re going to get! Open questions are great conversation starters, fact finders, and communication enhancers. Use them whenever possible.
Traditional communication often focuses on what is wrong and how we can fix it.
Think back to your last performance review, visit to the doctor, or your latest disagreement with a friend or spouse. Appreciative inquiry does the opposite: it focuses on what is right and how we can make it better.
Many organizations have found it to be a refreshing, energizing way of approaching problems and revitalizing their people.
Most experts propose a simple three-level framework that you can use to master the art of conversation. Identifying where you are and where you should be is not always easy, but having an objective outline can help you stay out of sticky situations. We will also share some handy networking tips that will help you get conversations started.
This lecture discusses these three levels of conversation type and how you can use these to be a more effective conversationalist - in project management and in your life!
For many people, life is like a snowball. On a particularly good day, everything may go your way and make you feel like you’re on top of the world. But on a bad day, unfortunate events can likewise snowball, increasing their negative effect exponentially.
For example, imagine how each of these events would make you feel if they happened to you first thing in the morning.
Each of those things is potentially responsible for creating a crummy morning. Now, imagine this scenario:
You wake up and realize your alarm clock hasn’t gone off and you’re already late. You get up and go to turn the coffee pot on, but you realize that there is no coffee left in your house. Then, you shower and head out the door – only to encounter construction and massive traffic back-ups on the way to work. Now you’re 15 minutes late instead of five. You get to work and head to the cafeteria for some much-needed coffee, but the line stretches out the door.
With the addition of each event, your morning just gets worse and worse. For most people, this is a recipe for disaster – the first person that crosses them is likely to get an earful!
Successful communicators are excellent at identifying precipitating factors and adjusting their approach before the communication starts, or during it. Understanding the power of precipitating factors can also help you de-personalize negative comments. This does not mean that someone having a bad day gets to dump on everyone around them; it does mean, however, that the person being dumped on can take it less personally and help the other person work through their problems.
Great job finishing this section on the Big Picture of Communications. As project managers we need to be effective communicators throughout the project to lead, direct, motivate, and align stakeholders.
Stakeholders will consistently look to the project manager for information - and will need to provide information to the project manager. This section works nicely with the PMBOK Guide, fifth edition, chapter on Stakeholder Management, as to manage stakeholders requires that we communicate with stakeholders.
In this section we'll cover:
Understanding body language helps project managers read other people - and will help to use the correct body language to communicate more effectively. The ability to interpret body language is a skill that will enhance anyone’s career. Body language is a form of communication, and it needs to be practiced like any other form of communication.
Whether in sales or management, it is essential to understand the body language of others and exactly what your own body is communicating.
Understanding body language does more than improve relationships. You will get insight into the thoughts and feelings of those around you. Because it is not a conscious form of communication, people betray themselves in their body language. Body language is powerful in several ways.
Power of Body Language:
We are constantly reading the body language of others, even when we are not aware of it. Actively reading body language, however, will provide valuable insight and improve communication.
Pay attention to the positions and movements of people around you. Specifically their head positions, physical gestures, and eyes.
By understanding what others are saying with their body language, we can adjust our message, provide clarity, and ask questions to better communicate. We'll also be able to adjust our body language to communicate more effectively with our project stakeholders.
Posture can lead to unfair judgments and prejudices. Often, poor posture is seen as a closed body language that people assume is caused by a lack of confidence. There are, however, many different reasons why someone can have poor posture. While it is true that most people can improve on their posture, the changes that can be made to a person’s musculoskeletal structure are limited. Always pay attention to other cues, and do not make rash judgments based solely on posture.
Some Causes of Poor Posture:
Not all body language is universal. There are differences in the way that men and women communicate.
Body language is often confused between genders. In order to prevent miscommunication, it is important to understand the signals that are common to most people as well as the different signals that men and women communicate with their body language.
Many gestures that we make are unconscious movements or mannerisms. Being aware of what our gestures mean will make us aware of what we communicating. The following list is not comprehensive, but it is a good place to start.
In this lecture I'll discuss these unconscious gestures:
Facial expressions are an important part of body language. We use our faces to express ourselves, and we all interpret the facial expressions we see. While some facial expressions are cultural, some facial expressions are universal. Understanding the basics of facial expressions and decoding them will help you determine what people are feeling and facilitate better communication.
Many scientists agree that facial expressions are linked to emotions. Different feelings create physical responses within the body, and facial expressions are emotional responses to situations. Because of the emotional connection, it is not easy to continually fake facial expressions. A flash of true emotion will typically flicker across the face, even when feelings are kept in check. Not only are emotions shown with facial expressions; the degree of emotion a person feels is visible on the face. For example, you can see the difference between a face that shows sadness and one that shows sorrow.
Powerful communication breeds confidence and respect. It is important that people sense power without aggression. Communicating with power requires practice, but it is an effective business tool.
Let's consider these powerful movements:
In this lecture we'll talk about body language and lying stakeholders! Body language can expose deception. Close observation of body language can indicate that someone is hiding something.
Be careful about interpreting every action as a lie. A number of factors, including stress and insecurity, will cause suspicious body language. When there are multiple indications of deception in a person’s body language, however, further investigation may be warranted.
Pay attention to your body language. People make snap judgments about each other based on body language. It is possible to improve your body language and the way that others view you.
Give an air of confidence when meeting with colleagues and potential clients. Understanding the subtleties of body language makes it easier to improve your own. Simply pay attention to what you say and do. In this lecture I'll discuss:
Actions speak louder than words - and that's true for your body language movements too. The key to instilling trust is matching body language to the words spoken. Movements will confirm or contradict what is said.
Gestures will easily match what is said if the words reflect genuine feeling. Emotional awareness is necessary to communicate exactly what you mean. Unresolved emotions can affect body language.
We covered much in this section on body language. You've learned that as a project manager we need to be able to 'read" the body language of other people and to pay attention to what our body language is saying to our stakeholders.
We all communicate nonverbally. The image that we project from our nonverbal communication affects the way that our spoken communication is received. While interpreting body language is important, it is equally important to understand what your nonverbal communication is telling others. It takes more than words to persuade others.
As a project manager you've probably already experienced conflict in your career. Stakeholders, project team members, customers, end users, vendors, and other folks don't (and won't!) always agree. Conflict happens!
Wherever two or more people come together, there is the possibility of conflict. This section will give participants a six-step process that they can use and modify to resolve conflicts of any size. Participants will also learn crucial conflict resolution skills, including dealing with anger and using the Agreement Frame.
In this section:
The Random House Dictionary defines conflict as, “to come into collision or disagreement; be contradictory, at variance, or in opposition; clash.”
Some examples of conflict can include:
Conflict can also be healthy. Think about how conflict will increase motivation and competitiveness in these scenarios.
These types of drivers can result in greater success, whether “success” means a better product, better teamwork, better processes, lower prices, trophies, or medals. Remember, everyone experiences conflict – it’s how you deal with it that matters.
There are five widely accepted styles of resolving conflicts. These were originally developed by Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann in the 1970’s. That's what TKI means, Thomas-Kilmann Instrument for Conflict Resolution.
We have even designed our conflict resolution process so that it can be used in conjunction with these styles. Understanding all five styles and knowing when to use them is an important part of successful conflict resolution.
Before beginning the conflict resolution process, both parties must agree that they want to resolve the conflict. Without this crucial buy-in step, achieving a win-win solution is close to impossible.
Once participants have agreed to resolve the conflict, it is important to neutralize as many negative emotions as possible. This means giving the participants in the conflict time to vent and work through the feelings associated with the conflict.
You can create two versions of your personal needs statement: your ideal resolution and your realistic resolution. Or, you could frame your statement into several steps if the conflict is complicated.
Another useful exercise is to break down your statement into wants and needs. This is particularly valuable if your statement is vague. Let’s take the statement, “I want changes to the schedule,” as an example. There are wants and needs within that statement. Understanding wants and needs will help with the resolution.
This will give you some bargaining room during the conflict resolution process, and will help ensure that you get what you need out of the solution. In the example above, you may be willing to give up a more regular schedule if more notice for schedule changes is provided.
There are often many negative emotions associated with conflict. No wonder – conflict makes many people upset and anxious, and often results in negative feelings like anger and disappointment.
If you are able to turn that negative energy into positive energy, and build goodwill with the person that you are in conflict with, resolving the conflict will be much easier. Ironically, the more negative the situation, the more important this step is.
Consider, however, the power that your approach has. You have two basic options: to match your adversary’s demeanor, or to be a positive influence. Both will likely take as much energy, but which will yield greater results?
There is no doubt about it – conflict resolution can be hard work. Effective conflict resolution digs deep into the issues, often exploring unfamiliar territory, to resolve the core conflict and prevent the problem from reoccurring.
However, this process can be time-consuming and emotionally difficult. You and the person that you are in conflict with may arrive at a point (or several points) in the conflict resolution process where you wonder, “Is this really worth it?”
When you arrive at these stalemates, take a look at why you are resolving the conflict. It can also be helpful to explore what will happen if the conflict is not resolved.
These questions should help participants put things into perspective and evaluate whether or not the conflict is truly worth resolving. In most situations, resolving the true conflict is well worth the effort in the long term. Visualizing the benefits can provide the motivation to work through the rest of the process.
For complex conflicts, there are some additional ways to stay motivated. It’s OK to break the resolution sessions into parts, with a different goal for each session. It’s also OK to take breaks as needed – a walk around the block or a glass of water can do wonders to refresh the mind and body.
Once you have a good handle on the conflict, it’s time for all parties in conflict to start generating some options for resolution. In this stage, it’s all about quantity, not quality; you want as many options to choose from as possible.
At this stage, all your work to build common ground and positive relationships will really start to pay off. As you and the person you are in conflict with start to generate options, the positive energy will build, increasing your creative output exponentially.
The best approach is for each party to take a few moments to write down their individual criteria, and then come together and combine the lists to create a final set of criteria. Although it is important to work together on this list, it is also important that the wants and needs of both parties are respected.
You may ask, why create criteria after creating options? Wouldn’t it make more sense to create a list of criteria and then generate a list of options?
Logically, this approach does make more sense. However, it can be difficult to come up with creative options when you already have a framework in mind. Therefore, we recommend brainstorming first, and then creating criteria second.
So far, we have explored the six phases of the conflict resolution process in depth.
In this module, we will work through an abridged version of the process that can be used quickly and easily to successfully resolve conflicts. We will also look at some individual steps that can be used as conflict resolution and prevention tools.
There is no doubt about it – dealing with conflict can be hard on the mind and the body. Being well-equipped with some stress and anger management techniques can help you stay calm during the conflict resolution process. Nothing is going to get solved when either (or both) parties are angry and upset.
Examples of coping thoughts: “I feel like he is just trying to push my buttons. I’m stronger than that!” or, “I’m not going to let myself get upset – that won’t solve anything. Instead, I am going to focus on getting this conflict solved.”
We've covered much material in this section on conflict resolution. This section wrap will discuss what we've covered, including:
The Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide) fifth edition has much focus on two knowledge areas: Project Communications Management and Project Stakeholder Management.
These two knowledge areas, while separate, are really linked to one another. In Communications Management the project manager and project team must plan for effective communications. In Stakeholder Management, the project manager needs to work with the stakeholders to completely understand and anticipate communications needs and expectations.
In this section we'll explore the relationship between stakeholder management and communications management.
Stakeholder identification should happen as early as possible in the project. If you wait too long to properly identify the stakeholders, you may end up missing decisions and requirements that will only cause the project to stall, you could possibly create bad relationships with the stakeholders, and perhaps cause turmoil within the project. Stakeholder identification is a project initiating activity and requires the project manager, the project team, and other stakeholders to help identify who should be involved in the project. As you identify stakeholders, you’ll classify them according to their power, influence, interests, and other characteristics so as to help you better manage the project and control stakeholder engagement. Stakeholder identification should happen as early as possible in the project. This lecture will help you determine how to best to:
Communication planning is actually done very early in the project planning processes. It’s essential to answer the previous questions as early as possible because their outcomes can affect the remainder of the project planning. Throughout the project, updates to communications planning are expected. Even the responses to the five project management communication questions can change as stakeholders, project team members, vendors, and other project interfaces change.. Communication is key to most of project management. This lecture defines:
Now that the project’s communications management plan has been created, it’s time to execute it. Managing project communications is the process of ensuring that the proper stakeholders get the appropriate information when and how they need it. Essentially, it’s the implementation of the communications management plan. This plan details how the information is to be created and dispersed, and also how the dispersed information is archived. Managing project communications ensures that the right people, get the right message, at the right time, in the right modality.
As a project manager, you’ll constantly work to engage the project stakeholders. This means communication, fostering relationships, facilitating meetings, negotiating, settling disputes, and managing all of the questions, demands, and inputs from the project stakeholders. Managing stakeholder engagement is a constant, ongoing activity—it’s what’s expected of you as the project manager. You’ll have to be available to the project stakeholders, but it also means you must go seek out stakeholders when conditions and situations call for you to get stakeholders more (or less) involved in the project.
You want to keep stakeholders involved and excited about the project. That's what this lecture is all about:
Throughout the project, customers and other stakeholders are going to need updates on the project performance, work status, and project information. The work performance information—the status of what’s been completed and what’s left to do—is always at the heart of performance reporting. Stakeholders want to be kept abreast of how the project is performing, but also what issues, risks, and conditions in the project have evolved.
Controlling communication is the process of following the communications management plan, distributing information, and sharing how the project is performing. Performance reporting is the process of collecting, organizing, and disseminating information on how project resources are being used to complete the project objectives. In other words, the people footing the bill and who are affected by the outcome of the project need some confirmation that things are going the way the project manager has promised.
Great job finishing this section on project communications management and stakeholder management. This topic, and these two project management knowledge areas, are very important to leading a successful project. In this section we discussed:
Congratulations on completing this course on communications management. We covered many topics in this course including:
As part of completing this course you can now claim five (5) Professional Development Units for your PMI certification. I'll give the details of how to claim your PDUs in this final lecture.
Thanks again for your time and energy in this course.
Joseph Phillips has more than 15 years’ experience as a project management consultant, educator, technology consultant, business owner, and technical writer. He has consulted as a project manager for a range of businesses, including startups, hospitals, architectural firms, and manufacturers. Joseph is passionate about helping students pass the PMP certification exam. He has created and led both in-person and web-based seminars on project management, PMP certification, IT project management, program management, writing, business analysis, technical writing, and related topics. Joseph has written, co-authored, or served as technical editor to more than 35 books on technology, careers, project management, and goal setting for MacMillan, McGraw-Hill, Pearson Education, and AMA Press.
Project Management Professional (PMP)
PMI-Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)
CompTIA Project+ Professional
CompTIA Certified Technical Trainer+
Certified ITIL Foundations Professional
PMP Project Management Professional Study Guide, McGraw-Hill
CAPM/PMP All-in-One Exam Guide, McGraw-Hill
PMP Project Management Lab Book, McGraw-Hill
The Certified Technical Trainer All-in-One Exam Guide, McGraw-Hill
IT Project Management: On Track from Start to Finish, McGraw-Hill
Project Management for Small Business, American Management Association
Software Project Management for Dummies, For Dummies Publisher
The Lifelong Project, Amazon CreateSpace
Vampire Management: Why Your Job Sucks, Amazon CreateSpace