Communication: The Often Undervalued Success Factor Within Project Management. - PM 360 Consulting
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Communication: The Often Undervalued Success Factor Within Project Management.

Communication: The Often Undervalued Success Factor Within Project Management.

How can project manager communicate and report effectively information to concerned stakeholder without fearing to run overtime or over budget?

Many projects fail due to ineffective communication. According to the Project Management Institute, projects carry the characteristics of being unique and temporary. However, it is not ‘unique’ that projects fail due to ineffective communication among concerned stakeholders throughout the project lifecycle. Effective communication has been pointed out in various research papers as one of the key success factors of project management. But nevertheless, many project managers are challenged by the question how to communicate effectively with stakeholders to achieve satisfaction, transparency and a successful outcome. Additionally, project managers find themselves confronted with time pressure, excessive workload and a high degree of communication expenditure with corresponding project partners and stakeholders.

How can we assure effective interactions with our stakeholders while achieving our objectives? Among others, effective communication belongs to the success factors within project management, but nevertheless, the different factors should be seen as a factor of an interrelated process that leads to an overall successful project.

Communication is especially important in relation to innovation and change, on the other hand, it is one of the most underestimated success factors of corporate operations. Due to lacking communication, which has been quoted as the main reason for inefficiency, many projects that needed to respond to change failed to meet their expectations. In order to ensure a better communication, the article from Angela Clark (1999) suggests a deeper understanding of advantages and disadvantages of verbal, written and visual communication within an organizational setting. “Successful communication needs to be focused rather than broad-brush and timing is of crucial importance”.

According to Gardiner (2005), effective communication stands for sending significant information from one person to another. Beyond transmitting the correct information, it involves that all the stakeholders have a great understanding of the intention and the exact meaning of the transferred information. There is a particular danger within project management that exists of the misconception: that because people verbally talk to each other the communication is effective. Three barriers of communication are pointed out by the author of “Project Management, A Strategic Planning Approach”:

  1. Misunderstanding
  2. Miscommunication
  3. Misrepresentation

Misunderstandings happen if information or facts are not clearly communicated to the receiver. In case the transmitter sends misinformation or it represents a small fraction of the facts it will lead to miscommunication between the communicating sender and receiver. And if information create a wrong picture of the actual facts or are biased, then misrepresentation might occur.

In order to deal with communication problems or barriers, Gardiner (2005) suggests to map out a communication strategy and create effective communication channels, including individual and team processes, goals, visions and values.

Create Effective Communication Channels

Team Process – Objectives & Goals – Regular Reviews – Clear Procedure

Individual Process – Personal Goals & Vison –  Values & Focus – Innovation & Involvement

There are some critical aspects that need to be considered when thinking about an appropriate communication strategy, as it could lead to efficient marketing towards key stakeholders, more precise performance reporting, teamwork engagement and control. The following listed elements can be considered to be integrated into a communication strategy:

Project charter
Feasibility report
Responsibility chart
Activity plans
Budget plan
Resource plan, Schedule plan
Monitoring, control data and charts
Change control records, Minutes of meetings
Team reports on progress and issues
Risk management plan
Evaluation report
Lesson learned files

The strategy can either be designed internally or externally depending on the size and complexity of the project. It is significant to highlight the importance of the planning phase of a project, as it lays an important foundation for the success of the overall project. To succeed in a project, the project team and everyone who is involved in the project needs to be prepared and aware to receive and sent important information that will affect the final outcome.

When thinking of effective communication, the communication competence of the project manager matters as it involves the development of a strong relationship and the assurance of a timely flow of information among the project team and stakeholder community. Secondly, effective communication requires a sound understanding of the perception of concerned stakeholder as projects have failed due to disillusion as well as dissatisfaction originated from unverbalized problems between stakeholders. Previous findings of various scholars have seen the relationship between stakeholder and effective communication towards a successful performance of the project. But yet, communication as a single factor has been often neglected.

Article written by Malin EcKel  January 9th 2018 ”Communication: the often undervalued success factor within Project Management”


Bourne, L. (2016). Targeted communication: the key to effective stakeholder engagement Social and Behavioral Sciences 226. 431 – 438.

Clarke, A. (1999). A practical use of key success factors to improve the effectiveness of project management International Journal of Project Management Vol. 17, No. 3, pp.139-145, 1999, 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd and IPMA.

Cobb, A. T. (2012). Leading Project Teams. (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

Gardiner, P.D. (2005). Project Management, A Strategic Planning Approach. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Project Management Institute. (2010). A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide). Newton Square Pennsylvania.