In many situations, whether it is a project or not, when things go astray we hear that there was a lack of communication or a breakdown in the channels of communication. When this happens, the door opens to misunderstandings and misinterpretation, allowing fear to sink in as they need to ask for help. In all cases, the project suffers and the blame falls on the shoulders of the project manager who is responsible for protecting the project and meeting the expected deadline of the deliverable.
Let’s explore some of the causes and what can be done to prevent a project from reaching this point.
Collecting and sharing information
Information gathering is one of the most crucial aspects of communication. Communication has two objectives: to collect and to share what was learned. How can a project succeed if we are not permitting this simple dialogue to occur? Perhaps that is the problem; we don’t allow true communication to be simple.
For dialogue to occur, a project manager must permit structured and non-confusing channels to be made available. This also means an ‘open-door policy, where team members or third-party contractors, are free to reach out to each other.
These channels can take the form of a weekly meeting, weekly reports or tools like email, Skype and project management software. In any of these opportunities, conversation and questions are the elements we need to collect and share information.
Are we permitting the art of asking questions?
Firstly, are we allowing team members to feel safe in asking questions? Project managers, stakeholders and team managers all say “if you have questions don’t hesitate to ask” and yet they get annoyed when a question or too many questions are asked.
Learning is accomplished if questions are allowed to be asked; how can knowledge be shared if there are no questions? The gathering and sharing of information are two sides of the same coin, which depends on open communication that supports the asking of questions.
Another perspective relates to the asking and to the response to a question. Let’s look at this from both a neurological and neurodivergent understanding. There is something known as processing speed. What is that you ask? Well, the human brain has two speeds, slow or fast. Some of us can process information faster than others. It is important to note that processing speed has nothing to do with intelligence. Research has shown that when you compare a person with a slow processing speed vs a fast person, on the IQ scale they are more often than not at the same level.
So what does this have to do with asking questions? The person who asks the question must be patient and give the other person time to process the information and time to give their answer. Too often we look down on people because of our impatience.
Too afraid to communicate
To summarise, are we creating a culture where team members feel safe to communicate with the manager? Are managers, supervisors and project managers being snappy with those who approach them? Are they making them feel unwelcome?
For any kind of dialogue to take place, people need to feel that their opinion, expertise and observations are valued. When they feel they are not valued, they won’t bother to speak up; as a result, scope creep occurs, the project becomes more costly and deadlines will likely be missed.
Who is to blame? Ultimately, it all falls on the shoulder of the Project Manager.
So in conclusion, make people feel safe and valued; allow for the expression of thought and the sharing of information. This way, issues are identified, motivation is engaged and productivity is up.
What to read more on how to run a smoother project then read: The cycle of a project manager