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Posted by on Nov 25, 2014

Clear Communication and Federal IT Project Success


One of the most common shortcomings in Federal projects is a failure to communicate effectively. Clearly communicating requirements, progress, and expectations is essential to avoiding rework, missed deadlines, and budget overruns. It’s usually skills like listening, interpersonal relationships, and emotional intelligence that make or break Federal IT projects.  To improve project outcomes, staff managing these projects should take professional skills training in addition to having on-the-job expertise.

In my soon-to-be-released resource, The Project Management Answer Book, I answer some of the most common questions about using clear and effective communication to ensure successful project outcomes.

Here’s an excerpt:

Ask a PM what is the most important project management skill to have, and you will most likely hear that it’s the soft skills. These include not only speaking and writing but also listening skills, interpersonal skills, and general emotional intelligence.

We all know PMs who are impressively technical (i.e., they have hard skills) but less effective than they could be, because they are held back by their soft skills. Without strong people skills, PMs are limited in effectiveness at gathering requirements, writing team communications, managing staff, and interacting successfully with their customers.

Two common examples: (1) Missing a small cue or failing to read between the lines on an interview can result in hiring the wrong team member, and (2) misunderstanding part of a requirement—or failing to communicate it clearly—often leads to costly rework.


Q1. What is effective listening?

A1. Effective listening is a general term for doing everything you can to really
hear the other person in an effort to create the most positive communication outcome. Communication glitches are the root cause of many errors on projects, so putting extra effort into listening is well worth it.

Q2. What is active listening, and how does it improve the communication process?

A2. Active listening is proactively showing the other person that you hear and understand what they are saying. An important part of this is nonverbal communication—conscious and unconscious behaviors such as nodding, making eye contact, and smiling and exhibiting other facial expressions. All of these indicate whether you are paying attention and understanding what the other person is saying.

Active listening greatly reduces the risk of miscommunication errors, because the listener’s responses prove that he hears the speaker. Active listening also provides an additional psychological benefit that further helps the communication process. People like to know that the other person is listening, because it makes them feel acknowledged and valued. They are more eager to work with and cooperate with stakeholders who do this well.

Excerpted with permission from The Project Management Answer Book, Second Edition by Jeff Furman, PMP. ©2015 Management Concepts Inc. All rights reserved.

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