Project Management

Project Communications for Hefty Boys

We have clearly entered the age of communication. If you’ve got something to say, the list of media is large: text, email, phone, writing, Skype, talking (*gasp*). But according to Geoff Crane at The Papercut Project Manager, the means of communication doesn’t necessarily guarantee the end. Namely, without a communications plan, some complex endeavors (like project management) are not as easy as they could be.

Take for instance a common question – “Have I put on weight?” Now, conventional wisdom dictates that this question be answered tactfully so as to avoid the commensurate scalding. However, just because your response to this unfair inquiry is phrased with poise and eloquence does not ensure that it will be well received.

The Shramm Communication Model

Crane uses Wilbur Shramm’s formal communications model to illustrate this point. A message is first formulated in the mind, and is encoded as an idea of what to communicate to another person. That encoded message is then transmitted through a particular medium and must often make its way through various distortions or interference before it reaches the receiver. Furthermore, once the message reaches the receiver, they will hopefully decode the message in a way that was intended by the sender (i.e. – It doesn’t make you look fat, and I’m not just saying that to appease you). 

A Communications Plan

But the most important phase in Shramm’s model is the act of feedback. After all, communication is never a solo affair. What this illustrates for project management is the need for communications planning that takes into account the need for a feedback loop to ensure that the messages being sent about the project are both received and interpreted as intended. I’ll leave the last words to Crane:

Any monkey can fill in a template. What matters are the decisions that go into completing one. A good project manager will evaluate not just the individual communication needs of the people attached to their project, but also the risks associated with specific communications media and make smart selections accordingly.

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