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Real World Project Management – Communications – Part V (#5 in the series Real World Project Management – Communications)
By Joseph Phillips

Communication Is Also Listening

Time to shut up. You’ve planned for communications and now you’re following your plan. But you have to listen to what’s being said. I don’t know about you, but I have two ears and one mouth. I’ve heard that this means I should listen twice as much as I talk. I have to listen to understand and receive the messages being sent to me.

As a project manager, you have scores of communication channels. And within your project there are potentially hundreds of communication channels. The larger the project, the greater opportunity for communications to break down. Here’s a nifty formula to show you just how many opportunities there are for communication to fail: (N*(N-1))/2. That’s N times N-1 divided by 2. N represents all the key stakeholders.

Wanna try it? Let’s say we have a project with 10 stakeholders, including you, the project manager. That’d be 10 times 9, a big 90. Divide that by 2 and you’ve got 45 communication channels. Now ask yourself, “What’s for lunch?” Sorry. Ask yourself, “How many stakeholders are on my project?” A bunch, I bet.

Go ahead and try this formula on one of your projects. I’ll wait.

See how the possibilities for communication failure just came into focus? Scary.

So, to be effective, we’ve got to listen to what’s coming at us, what’s being discussed among our project team, and what they’re telling our stakeholders. You, the project manager, must be at the center of communications; you have to be the communications hub.

Now do you believe that communication takes up 90% of a project manager’s time?

Joseph Phillips is the author of five books on project management and is a, PMI Project Management Professional, a CompTIA certified Project Professional, and a Certified Technical Trainer. For more information about Project Management Training, please visit Project Seminars.

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