Project Management Challenge #9: Communication Breakdowns

by Erin McCune on April 2, 2007

in Project Management

Communication Breakdowns


There are many factors that contribute to communication breakdowns. Large teams are particularly susceptible to incomplete and infrequent information sharing. Cross functional teams are also plagued by poor communication.

Inexperienced project leaders often underestimate the level of project communication necessary to guarantee success.

A lack of clarity regarding project success criteria and how it should be measured contribute to confusing and misleading project communications.


Successful project leaders distribute regular status updates via email and post them to a shared team site. The most useful status updates include progress vs. the project schedule and success metrics. It is also critical to highlight issues and outline efforts to resolve them.

A standing weekly team meeting is useful for maintaining momentum and facilitating communication. It should be mandatory for core team members but limited to no more than one hour.

In order to overcome a particularly vexing issue or work through a challenging project phase, a smaller breakout team may institute additional meetings. These may come and go during the project lifecycle.

The project manager should be in regular contact with project sponsors – in person or on the phone (not via email) – in order to keep senior management abreast of project progress and any potential risks.

The project manager must be an active advocate for the project. The most effective project managers actively seek venues to promote the project, outline benefits, and share progress throughout the organization.

Pm_series_icon_2This is one of a series of posts on project management for finance professionals. The series features practical project management advice and tips for driving process change using technology. The series is archived here.

2 Responses to “Project Management Challenge #9: Communication Breakdowns”

  1. Ron Rosenhead says:

    Project Agency has surveyed around 2,500 people. One of the results of this survey has been the large percentage of people who suggest that project communications are really bad! 71% of the 2,550 people (1,775) suggested that project communications are really poor.
    What can be done? Using the methods described in your posting Erin can help however quite often the project involves more than changing processes – changing behaviour. This means working really really hard on the communications side, often haveing someone on the project team who is managing that aspect. We are seeing the involvement of professional PR/media people on projects…however, not enough of them are involved.
    Why not visit my blog and look at my 23 February posting.
    Ron Rosenhead

  2. Ron, you are absolutely right. Project communications are critical because behavioral change is so daunting. In fact, our next series of posts (scheduled for May-June) is on Change Management. In the meantime, I’m going to check out your site and see what else you gleaned from your survey.
    Thanks for the feedback. – EMc

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