Resource Index > Burning Questions > Communicating

Burning Questions on Communicating

Communication is the glue that holds an organization together. Without clear, timely, unambiguous communication, even a small team collocated together will have serious problems. And if the team is distributed geographically, poor communication will render an already challenging situation nearly impossible to control. Effective communication includes both a well-designed infrastructure and the processes, messages, and documents that use that infrastructure to exchange information among project stakeholders and keep them aligned on the project goals and informed of the project's progress.

Burning Questions

  1. Now that I've analyzed and recorded all this information, I'm not sure how to share it without overwhelming everyone. Is there a right way to communicate about requirements?
  2. Why is it important to announce in some form who is managing a newly commissioned project?
  3. How long should team meetings be and how often should they be held and why, especially if I have to convince people to spend their time to attend?
  4. As project manager, who am I supposed to communicate with and about what? How do I decide what's needed for a particular project?
  5. Once we create the project plan, and the document that summarizes everything the project's going to do, who should get a copy of it?

Problem Solvers

  1. How do I get two dueling executives to agree on goals and stop delaying my project?
  2. Something has gone wrong on our project, and I don't know how to communicate it to the executives without losing my standing... or my job!
  3. My manager has asked for gory detail status reports that I think are a waste of time. Do I just have to give in and do them? Are there alternatives?
  4. People don't come to team meetings consistently — how do I fix that?
  5. Our team meetings degenerate into long discussions with no concrete outcomes. How do I get everyone on track to conclusions and decisions, without seeming to cut off discussion people think is necessary?
  6. Certain people are disrupting our team meetings with their behaviors—everything from side conversations to zoning out on their computers to interrupting the speaker to rolling their eyes all the time. What do I do?
  7. I've been tasked to set up a monthly project meeting. What is the purpose of such a meeting, who attends, and why is it held?
  8. Why have a special 'Kick-off Meeting' at the start of a project, why not just jump in and start work?

Sample Burning Questions

Burning Questions are a part of our Premium Resources. Here are samples to show you what kinds of great questions we answer that no one else does. Try us free for 15 days to gain immediate access to our Burning Questions plus over 200 Project Management Templates, Guidelines and Checklists.

How to establish authority as PM with peers. I'm suddenly going to be project manager over some of my peers. How can I make sure this change in relationship gets off to a good start?
Well, to begin with it might be good to change your perspective of the project manager's role from 'over' to 'with', otherwise you could be in for a long cold winter with a forecast of frosty relationships. Keep in mind that all team members are contributing equally to the same goal, but that they each are bringing different skills and capabilities to the project. With this perspective you need to promote your role as project manager as a facilitator to help the team work toward success, like the role of the ring master at the circus where he is a minor contributor of entertainment, his role is critical to coordination of the various acts to work seamlessly together. Our template Team Roles and Responsibilities List is an excellent tool to facilitate the dialogue across your project team, allowing each member to define their role and responsibility of the project.

How to get people to stick to the agenda in meetings. I have heard that a good agenda is critical to the meeting outcomes, but how do I get meeting participants to send me agenda items and then stick to the agenda? How do I avoid adding last-minute items that derail the meeting, but may need to be addressed?
There are several ways to address the issues you bring up and the answer depends on your team culture. First, you do not want to alienate you team, but it is critical for you to establish your role as the meeting leader and how meetings will be run. This can be accomplished in many different ways. Try having a discussion with you team about the pros and cons of setting the agenda ahead of time. Go over each issue and lead a discussion on how the team wants to address each issue by establishing ground rules. If it is only a few individuals who are consistently late with their agenda items, then talk to them privately. Come to an agreement as to how late items will be handled next time and make sure you follow through if they are late.

Also, don't forget to use the meeting tracking tools to establish a rough draft agenda and send it out ahead of time. Be sure you send it out in enough time to allow for feedback.

And there is always the babysitting approach. The fact is that some people need to be walked through how to establish new behaviors. A simple phone call or email or reminder in the hall a few times may work to get them on the right track.

Once people use the agenda and see it as helping them to accomplish the work, they will participate. If they are not sticking with the agenda, then perhaps it is time to evaluate the agenda and make it more effective.

Getting action items to mean something. We're keeping track of action items but no one seems to be taking them seriously. We review them and say we'll do them, but the dates often just get changed every week. What's the POINT?
I hope you're using the editorial 'we' in this question and not participating in the behavior! Demonstration of accountability to commitments is fundamental for any leader, as why should others do when the leaders doesn't demonstrates the desired behavior. That said one has to consider if the action items unique and require action on the scale defined. If the actions are associated with issues which are impacting progress, then the delay in resolution will be reflected in a slip in project progress. The point of an action item list is that to track work which has been identified during project execution which was not previously known or planned and is necessary to complete the task. Action items need to have some degree of purpose associated with the project, otherwise it becomes just something else to do. No one likes to have additional non-value added tasks assigned - we've all got enough to do...

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