Watch for Communication Breakdowns

Without communication, projects slip into disarray and then complete failure. This is something that project managers are told again and again while learning and repeat over and over while leading – but being told and knowing can be two very different things. With that in mind, this blog post by Eric Krock gives his real-world example of communication going by the wayside and the way he was able to save an important project. First, the story: a “significant professional services engagement” project was slated for a major customer. A good project manager was brought in and the project started smoothly. But as the project moved along, it became clear that not everything was fine: As weeks passed, I noticed that certain open issues were not getting resolved and became concerned. Time was passing and I didn’t like the risk the unresolved issues introduced into the project. I also became aware by word of mouth that the project manager and the lead professional services engineer didn’t seem to be getting along well. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that the professional services team was located on another continent, so face-to-face meetings were too expensive to undertake within the project’s budget. The project manager and the professional services team were having to interact by audio conference calls alone. Krock approached the project manager and learned that he hadn’t had a meeting with the geographically remote professional services team in three weeks. This stunned and concerned Krock – without open communication the issues could not be resolved and the project did not have a chance to succeed. He demanded the meeting to occur immediately, resulting in the re-establishment of communication and a reversal of the downward trend the project was experiencing. The reason communication failed was a very human one: the project manager and the lead professional services engineer didn’t get along, and a personality conflict sprung up, destroying the already strained communication lines between them. The lesson is that no matter how skilled your employees may be, it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of the project: human relationships can hinder solid communication, among other things. By making sure communication breakdowns don’t occur, you assure project success is achieved.

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