Expensive Mistakes: Lack of Communication with Project Stakeholders

19 April 2018
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Vivien Goldstrong is a consultant, project controls and planning manager, with expertise in implementation and consultancy related to Oracle Primavera P6. Currently works on development of Primavera Reader software. She’s been part of the project management industry for more than 20 years. You can connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Mistakes happen everywhere and all the time. Some can be minor without serious consequences, but others can be fatal. When it comes to project management, a small mistake can sometimes cost a whole project. Among the mistakes with some more serious consequences is the lack of communication with project stakeholders because, read carefully, IT MAY COST YOU A LOT OF MONEY.

Stakeholders play a great role in the risk profile of the work and depending on their behaviour there can be positive or negative consequences. Even though not always directly, they still impact various processes such as requirements definition, risk identification, and schedule management, so understanding them and being on good terms can be of great use. This especially refers to project stakeholders, as when you have top management’s support it automatically reduces the troubles in recruiting the best staff for the project, acquiring the needed material and resources. Obviously, in the heart of this lies proper and effective communication.

Effective communication helps build trust, mutual understanding, and forms strong and healthy relationships within the organization. As a result, trust lowers the cost of doing business; fully understanding the requirements for a successful completion of the job reduces the risk of failure; strong relationships with key stakeholders contribute to a more effective problem solving and issue management.

Why should you care?

Not all project managers are aware that they are communicating poorly. And yet, the success or failure of your project depends on it. Understanding the roots of ineffective communication, especially with stakeholders, and the impact of it is crucial to grasping the need for and finding the proper way of developing some communication plan that improves the situation. You may think that you’re handling things fine and find no issues in your communication, but poor communication can sometimes be even worse than no communication at all, so it is vital that you recognize it and attempt to change it.

When one speaks of communication on a project that must not come down to simply issuing a project status update report from time to time. Communication should be regarded as a crucial means by which stakeholders are engaged in order to clearly identify and fully comprehend their needs. It should serve for better understanding of what they need and what they don’t need to have communicated to them, and also gather important information from them.

Why is this an expensive mistake?

The lack of communication with your project stakeholders or even with your project team can tremendously affect the success of your project. It very often results in:

  • Limited or no buy-in and dedication to the project
  • Failure to understand correctly stakeholder expectations on what is considered project success
  • Disputes between the project team and stakeholders, or between stakeholder groups
  • Stakeholders who may negatively campaign against the project
  • Failed projects

Research has shown that when a communication is ineffective the projects are less successful. Organizations with such communication report significantly fewer projects meeting original goals, being completed on time and within budget. When there is lack of communication between project managers and project stakeholders business are out of sync with project requirements. The success of strategic initiatives relies on proper communication and organizations which have established meaningful communication are five times more likely to show strong performance rather than organizations with minimal levels of communication.

So, this mistake can cost you money, valuable time and project success rates.

Is there a solution?

In order for your communication to run smoothly and help you achieve your goals unimpeded, here are some strategies you can employ when dealing with project stakeholders:

  • Create detailed plans and set key milestones for which you will ask approval from top management during the planning and design phases of the project.
  • Set clear, concise expectations and ensure that they are clearly and unambiguously understood by both parties
  • Discuss with your project stakeholders their information reporting requirements, frequency, and manner of interaction
  • Create a status reporting methodology, which will be distributed on a regular and previously determined basis
  • Ensure that project stakeholders are informed of project risks and potential impacts at all times

This does not mean that you should be in touch with project stakeholders 24/7 but you should certainly define and agree on some ground rules with them in terms of the most suitable communication plan at the outset of the project.

Would you agree that the lack of communication could be expensive? Do you find your communication with stakeholders to be effective? How do you manage to be an effective communicator and successfully convey what is really required?

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