Communication Skills Lead to More Effective Project Teams
Managing the technical aspects of an IT project can be very challenging on its own. When you consider the need to communicate effectively with stakeholders and project team members, successful IT project management becomes even more complex.
Without effective and foundational communication skills, project management teams can experience significant challenges moving projects toward their desired state. The Project Management Institute in its report on effective communication says “whether it’s in person or via email, with a sponsor or a stakeholder, effective communication serves as the very bedrock of business. It can sway public opinion, give teams a sense of purpose, persuade executives to increase funding — and boost project success rates.”
In most IT projects, there are many cross-functional teams with varied skill-sets and roles, complex program integration dynamics at play, and often competing priorities. Project managers across the Federal government benefit when their teams harness the power of foundational communication skills. Project teams become super-charged and highly-effective project teams when they master and demonstrate communications skills such as influencing, briefing and presenting, and customer service.
Here are three often overlooked, communications skills that can significantly improve program success:
- Influencing: Influence has to do with your impact on others; your ability to inspire, encourage and motivate others into action. In order to be an effective influencer you need to understand that the members of a project team are likely to have just one of two mindsets when it comes to IT project management – the IT mind and the business mind.
They think and operate differently making communication, (such as briefing/presentations, and developing documentation) between the two very challenging. But when you understand that the IT mind just wants to get the job done and focus on the development process and that the business mind (the PM) is constantly considering the numerical values associated with the project, such as completion dates, success criteria, metrics etc., you will be able to effectively influence every aspect of the project toward completion.
- Briefing and Presenting: On any given day, project managers find themselves having to create briefs detailing progress or various details of their programs. The briefing can be the most powerful communications tool for IT project managers. Yet, all too often, instead of being informative and insightful, these briefings end up as death-by-PowerPoint sessions. The team has to stay involved and be able to communicate their progress in an effective and efficient manner.
When presenting briefs, know the needs of your audience and match your content to their needs. Know your material thoroughly. Put what you have to say in a logical sequence. If you need to, practice and rehearse your speech at home or where you can be at ease and comfortable, in front of a mirror, your family, friends or colleagues. If you master these communications skills you will be able to develop and deliver an effective presentation.
- Customer Service: Another advanced skill is leveraging customer service-style communication that is not limited to a face-to-face conversation. We live in an age of technology where there are plenty of tools that are available to help you communicate in a customer-friendly manner. Understanding that as a project manager your role is to serve the entire team and the preferred methods of sending and receiving information can make or break your project if you rely too heavily on just one method. Use all forms of communications tools to demonstrate that you value your team. Not every form of communication has to be traditional means such as a face-to-face. A telephone conversation, a briefing document, an email or even a text message might work wonders. Find out what your customers prefer and use it.
When you begin to use these communications skills in your day-to-day IT project management, you will realize and increase understanding, awareness and buy-in from all your stakeholders and team members, leading to project success.