Communication, or lack thereof, can make or break a project yet effective communication is something many of us struggle with. We have all faced project issues. A small change causes an over expenditure, negatively impacting the project budget, schedule, or scope of work. Perhaps it’s crunch time, and a vital team member contracts the flu while his backup happens to be vacationing at the Grand Canyon with her family. Issues arise on every project—they are inevitable.
When issues occur, our first thoughts may be to avoid the situation and try to fix issues quietly among the internal team members without notifying the client. However, experience has shown that project managers who do not communicate issues to their clients see a negative impact on the project’s overall health, most notably to their client relationships and satisfaction.
So how do you avoid this common pitfall? You build client relationships from day one! According to the Project Management Institute’s PM Network, “When the heat is on, strong stakeholder management skills can help project managers put out the fire. But relationship building must start long before a code red is called.”
From the beginning, project managers should actively seek collaborative relationships with their clients. Actively listen to what the client knows and wants. Take an interest in the client professionally and personally. Share the project plan, and let them know when changes or complications arise. Be available and flexible when needed. Stay open and honest, making sure they know what you know. Finally, accomplish all of these things by communicating, communicating, communicating!
Establishing effective communication in the normal day-to-day operations allows you to develop a healthy working relationship with the client, which ultimately sets the project up for success. If you are comfortable talking to your client about your everyday project plan, resourcing strategies, deliverable requirements, and maybe even his or her child’s little league game last weekend, it will be easier to make the difficult phone calls or attend meetings with them when issues arise.
So why wait to establish effective project communication? Protect valuable client relationships and satisfaction from day one and communicate, communicate, communicate!