Different Types of Communication for Effective Project Management

Project Managers Must Be Skilled Communicators

There are many different types of communication that you will need to be familiar with if you want to successfully manage your project.

Project communication has many different facets that the project manager needs to be able to handle. Here are some examples of the wide range of communication skills needed...

  • From describing the project vision to assigning daily tasks
  • From working with executives to working with the project team
  • From negotiating project scope with clients to negotiating contracts with vendors
  • From large group presentations to individual performance reviews

To get a better feel for the communication skills a project manager needs, let's take a deeper look at some of the different aspects of communication in a project environment.

Different Types of Communication in Projects

There are many perspectives to project communication. We'll take a look at four types of communication aspects project managers need to be aware of...

  • Project Perspective
  • Organizational Perspective
  • Formality Perspective
  • Channel Perspective

Project Perspective

From a project perspective, communication can be looked at as either internal or external.

Internal communication is the communication that takes place between project team members. Generally, this type of communication is "raw." It may involve a lot of back-and-forth discussion as plans or issues are worked out.

External communication is communication between project team members and the other project stakeholders. Examples include communication with internal and external customers, other projects, and the media. Generally, this type of communication is cleaned up or otherwise prepared before being presented or sent to the receiving party.

Organizational Perspective

Communication from an organizational perspective can be categorized as vertical, horizontal, or diagonal. This perspective takes into account the way organizations are structured.

Vertical communication is the upward and downward communication flow that happens between different hierarchical levels of the organization. An example of upward communication is when a project team member provides the project manager with a status update of his assigned tasks. An example of downward communication is when the project manager shares the project goals with the project team.

Horizontal communication refers to communication between people at the same organizational level. An example of horizontal communication is when project team members discuss project topics with each other.

Diagonal communication takes place between different functional divisions of the organization. Diagonal communication has become more important as matrix and project-based organizations become more common. To be effective in these types of organizations, a project manager has to be familiar with the different functions and managers within the organization and then plan his communications accordingly.

Formality Perspective

Another way to look at project communication is on whether it is formal or informal.

Some examples of formal communication include reports, presentations, and media releases. This type of communication is usually planned and takes some time and effort to prepare.

Informal communication includes emails and ad-hoc discussions. Informal communication has increased as many projects start to use social networking.

Many people don't put much thought into their informal communications. However, effective project managers realize this type of communication is just as important as formal communication. Whether formal or informal, you need to make sure you communicate with a purpose and that you put some thought into how you communicate in order to get the results you want.

Channel Perspective

Project managers also need to give consideration to the communication channel they will deliver their message over.

This perspective deals with how your message will be communicated. Will it be...

  • Verbal or Non-Verbal
  • Written or Oral
  • Face-to-Face or via Telephone

There are many types of communication medium you can use. These are just a few examples of the ways you can communicate your message.

Some of the factors to take into account when deciding what channel to use are...

  • Purpose of the communication
  • Audience
  • Type of information

In Conclusion...

Effective communication skills are the foundation of a project manager's success. Understanding the different types of communication is important for making sure your project communication is successful.

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