Communicate

August 21, 2009
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It’s not only your project team members and you the project manager that are the only stakeholders in a project. There are always a lot of other stakeholders in the organization that are interested in successful completion of the project you are handling. They would want to be informed of the progress. The frequency of the reporting would depend on the criticality of the project to the organization’s goals. As a project manager you are in the middle of your project team and these other stakeholders. We have discussed already how it is vital to communicate with the project team. It is equally vital that you are able to communicate with these stakeholders as well.

Communicate, Communicate and then some more

These other stakeholders are not interested in how you are getting the project done, the processes, the technology involved and so on. Their information need is going to be entirely different than your day to day concerns to get the project done successfully. They would obviously be interested in knowing how much has been done and how much more needs to be done. Now, as a project manager you need to have a very accurate grip on these two aspects anyway. But what the higher honchos need to understand is not if you finished the critical server component in the latest and greatest software. What they would probably want to understand is the time to market aspect of the product. So you must very clearly understand what is it that they want to know, in their terms.

Your job would be to understand what exactly they want to know. To do that you w2ould need to communicate frequently with the people that matter and really listen to what they say. Only then you would be able to understand what they want to know and understand. When you are ready to report the status communicate the information in the required format. This correct articulation of the how much is done and how much more needs to be done will save you a lot bickering at later points in time.

Like everything else in corporate life, be as accurate and as realistic as possible in your reports. Quite often, particularly when you are assigned to be project manager for the first time, you may tend to report quick progress and early breakthroughs. This would typically be in the first flush of enthusiasm to prove to the world ho2 hot shot a project manager you are. However, remember that being too optimistic raise expectations all round. It is possible that in the early adrenalin rush, you have actually produced very optimistic result or even a breakthrough. But, what you need to consider is, if that kind of progress is sustainable.

Remember the other side too. While it is possible to may be push your team quite hard initially and get some quick results, it is nearly impossible to maintain that over a period of time. Project folklore is replete with stories of how such project managers succeed in creating death marches. People continue through the pressure, but reach a zombie like state where they would not really care about what is being produced or what the goal was. Communicate with them realistically too.

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