The perils of no project communication

I wrote this blog when a previous client asked me about what happens if you have no project communication at all.

At a time when many organisations are faced with higher demand and lower income, there is a very real risk that effective communication could be missed for projects which go ahead. Smaller project teams with more to do could easily be tempted to cut corners in some areas.

While I sympathise with the desire to make the ‘to do’ list shorter, I would argue that communication is more important now than ever. We all need to work together on our organisation’s projects and we can only do that if we know what’s going on.

What’s the impact?

This is what I regularly see happening where projects are missing effective communication:

A photo of a traffic jam in a big city with the word chaos superimposed over the top of it

No-one knows what they’re doing, so they just make it up and that leads to chaos.

A photo of a hammer attempting to knock a screw into a piece of wood and a spanner trying to twist a nail into the same wood. The word confusion is written above this mix-up.

People are confused so they do the wrong thing or cause more problems than you started with.

A grumpy looking owl sitting on a branch with the word resentment superimposed above its head

They know something is going on and they know you’re not telling them what, so they start to be suspicious of you and feel resentful.

A male footballer lies on the pitch with his hands over his face, apparently in despair. The word failure appears above him on the photo.

Ultimately, your project fails because no-one knew what to do or why.

Filling the void

In truth there is no such thing as no communication at all. If there is no official communication – if you’re not sharing info about your project and listening to feedback – rumours will soon start up to fill the void.

And, of course, rumour has all manner of characteristics that are the opposite of effective communication. It’s often not based on fact and even when it is based on fact, the truth soon gets lost as it gathers momentum and takes on a life of its own.

When I talk to clients about this, I remind them that you are communicating even when you’re not “communicating”. You may feel that you’re not communicating about your project because you haven’t sent an email, written a web article or held a face to face conversation, but this in itself is communicating something.

People around your organisation will be filling that void and may be interpreting your silence as:

  • deliberately keeping them in the dark (hello, resentment)
  • a lack of understanding of their world (hello, ‘them and us’ feelings)
  • or even ignorance or incompetence on your part (you clearly don’t know what you’re doing if you’re not talking about it).

This is even more likely to happen when so many people are now based at home or working in smaller groups away from the usual way of doing things.

Communications plan

So how can you avoid these problems?

The simple answer is to make sure that you have included communication as a key part of your project plan. You need to think about effectively getting your messages across and listening to feedback at every stage of your project:

  • before, during and after.

The detail of messages and audiences may become clearer as the work progresses, but having an outline at the start of how you will be talking and listening ensures continuity and clarity. That way you won’t have beautiful, effective communication in the pre-project stage, but fizzle out once you get into the nitty gritty of the project itself. Or radio silence until a beautiful launch article suddenly appears months down the line.

How do you plan your project communications? If you would like help with something you are working on, please do get in touch to see how I can support you.

Until next time

Other articles about solving business problems:

Solving process problems through effective communication
Solving motivation & productivity problems
4 steps to reducing silo-working
The link between fundraising and communication

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