Stop the Project Communications Breakdown NOW!

February 28, 2018 by Srikanth PV

Here are a few quick and simple questions.
• Are you working on a project either as the project manager or a team member?
• What is the size of the project team?
If you are a team member, then it is good; if you are a project manager, then, even better!
The size of a project team could range from say, three, five, seven, ten, and on large projects may go up to fifty. Megaprojects could end up with over hundred team members. Of course, large construction projects may have hundreds of them including the workforce at the construction site. We will leave them for now.
For our reference, let us use a ten-member project team including the project manager.
Here is a trick question!
As a project manager, how many lines of communication exist on your project? Let me clarify that communication is a two-way process. The project manager interacting with team member ‘x’ and the team member ‘x’ responding represents one line of communication.
Did the question force you to pick up a paper and pencil and maybe a calculator?
Don’t get worked up. The answer is forty-five lines of communication. The formula behind the math is (n) × (n-1) ÷ 2, where ‘n’ represents the number of people.
As a project manager, why should you be worried about the math here?
Imagine if you are managing a project with nine team members, the possible channels of communication between you and the team members as well as the team members among themselves is just forty-five!
Did that shock you? I hope so!

The key takeaway for the project managers is – unless you plan, manage, and control your project communications, you might end up with a project communications breakdown as highlighted in this blog’s image at the beginning.
Here’s a quiz question!
Have you heard of Albert Mehrabian? If not, you are not alone.
One of his significant contributions includes the analysis of communication and its impact. Communication is made up of three components – words, intonation or modulation, and body language. Mehrabian’s research observed that the effect of words, modulation, and body language were 7%, 38%, and 55% respectively.
While Mehrabian’s findings have been misinterpreted (research on communication misrepresented is such an irony, isn’t it?), let us not venture into that arena for now!
Now reflect on how much we communicate and the manner in which we communicate? With the latest technologies available, it is hardly surprising that much of our interactions are ‘textual’ – emails, messages, chats, etc.
As project managers and professionals, what insights could we draw from Mehrabian’s research in this environment?
That there is a 93% chance of the project communications NOT being perceived the way it was intended to!

Let us now review the two communication aspects that we talked about so far.
1. Lines of project communication
2. Impact of communication
As project managers and team members, do you realize the potential dangers of miscommunication on projects? Could you visualize the effect of a project communication breakdown?
In the above context, it is amply clear that project managers and business leaders must invest in the right combination of communication modes listed below.
• Face-to-face
• Telephonic conversations
• Video conversations
• Emails
• Documents
• Chats
It is no rocket science that face-to-face interactions have the best possible impact.

However, in today’s global corporate world, face-to-face interactions may not be feasible all the time. The situation warrants a different communication and collaboration approach with the use of other modes of communication.
TouchBase® is designed to manage the critical aspect of project communication management across teams and organizational hierarchy by providing a robust platform for instant communication, documentation, and clarifications.
“Are you listening”?

Srikanth PV comes with two decades of global corporate and consulting background across industries with diverse roles including Strategy, Leadership, and Management. Currently, Srikanth is Head, PPM Content Management at ProductDossier focused on content management strategy aimed to empower customers create and enhance value through its flagship digital solution - TouchBase. Srikanth is also a former member of the Board of Directors of PMI Bangalore Chapter.