Communication at the Core of Project Management
Project Management is a bit like a dance – knowing when to lead, when to follow, when to focus on budgets, timelines and details, and when to connect with others on a personal level. It’s an artform that a few will come by naturally, others will develop and learn, and some will never grasp. No matter where you stand, there are a few tips that can help you be a successful project manager.
Have Kickoff meeting
No, a kickoff meeting isn’t necessary for all projects, but if your project will involve multiple departments, or more than 3 deliverables, a kickoff meeting (even a short and sweet one) will go a long way to getting the team on the same page. There are a few reasons a proper kickoff can serve you well.
- All team members have the same knowledge. Inevitably, questions will come up or holes will be poked, and having everyone on one call means everyone will know the same information without having to play a game of telephone
- It makes people play nice. There’s always a few people at the company who prefer to work alone (no judgement), and putting them on a call with other members of the team is the best way to encourage open communication and teamwork.
- Establish yourself as the driver of the project. Assuming you lead the meeting well, you’re now a source of knowledge, the glue that binds the team together – making it easier to plan and adjust moving forward. (Note: this role may be shared with the Account Manager on the project.)
Ask for Feedback & Listen to Opinions
None of us can claim to be the expert on everything, so when your team offers feedback – listen to it. They may offer a point of view that will improve the end product. By implementing a feedback loop in your project process, you can ensure that the final product is up to the client’s expectations. Also, you can work on learning from your mistakes and avoid similar errors in the future.
Ask ‘Why’ All The Time
This one kills me, because it’s far too reminiscent of the time I drove across the country with a 3 year old. Asking why, or reiterating the why, at every step of the way will help keep the goal in mind.
Why is the client asking for this?
Why these deliverables?
Why this media mix?
Why do we think this will hit the right audience?
Etc. etc. etc.
Revisiting these questions as the project progresses, or we’re thrown curveballs, can help make sure everyone is still moving toward the same end goal.
Figure Out Each Team Members’ Preferred Method of Communication
It’s no secret that frequent check-ins help keep a project moving, avoid scope creep, and ensures that no one is moving too far down a wrong path. But that doesn’t mean that every team member will respond the same way, and finding each person’s preferred method of communication will go a long way to building a great relationship with your producers. You can then tailor your communication (to some extent) to each producer and improve your working relationship.
In this day and age there are many options you can take for communicating:
- In person – Not as feasible if your teams are working remotely, but an option for those in offices.
- Phone call – A.k.a. audio-only call.
- Video chat – Some are more willing than others to turn their cameras on, but having this bit of face-to-face with remote teams can be a huge help for those that are willing.
- Email – The yawning abyss that is an email inbox isn’t the most efficient for urgent needs.
- Chat – Mattermost, slack, google chat. Any of these can work as long as your teams commit to using it, but be warned that it’s not a great opportunity for record keeping.
Tools for Communication
There are so many tools for communication available, but here are a few of my favorites:
- Mattermost – I don’t think it could be any easier to use. Great for chatting 1:1 or for creating a group chat per client or interest. Chat is great as a way of asking a quick question, alerting someone to a hot request you’re sending their way, or for sharing information internally while on a client call (ex: here’s the media plan link that she’s referencing, line 22).
- Trello – the straightforward nature of Trello makes it easy to use across departments and to adapt it for your needs. The happy PM in me likes the ability to layer organization – lists, cards, color coding, tagging, checklists… you can go as deep and get as detailed as you want! The added bonus here is that the history of each card can be searchable by other team members. I’ve used this many times to see if someone else has already answered the question I have.
I’ve barely scratched the surface here around project management, focusing primarily on communication – when to do it, how to do it, how not to be hated for nagging, etc. There are thousands of other things that will make you a great project manager, but at the root of it all is whether or not your team has the information they need to complete a project…successfully. As teams grow, and as we work in remote situations more and more, we need to be even better at communication and utilizing the tools at our disposal. Nothing will quite take the place of gathering 8 people into a conference room for a project brainstorm, but as the world adapts, so must we.