How Project Managers Can Communicate More Effectively with Executives
By Laura Williams, PMP
Ask Yourself, "What Would I Want to Know?" Effective communication is critical to successful project management. Project managers communicate project information to stakeholders, team members and other project managers. To be effective, we must focus on the needs of the receiver. When we communicate with executives, we are communicating with key stakeholders in our projects. To be successful, just follow these three points:
- Put yourself in their shoes — The executive is your customer. Try to determine what information you would need if you held that position. Accurate cost data, schedule data, project concerns and risks are all fair game. Once you figure that out, choose the delivery method. Deliver the bottom-line results first, then summarize. Make sure that you have detailed data to back up the information, but only present it if asked. Preparing with detail will give you a good dose of confidence when delivering the summary, and you'll be ready to field questions if asked.
- Be a proactive project manager — If a problem is raised, don't even consider broaching the subject if you don't have a few potential solutions (and their pros and cons) at your fingertips. Refer to point one; nobody wants to have a bomb dropped without warning and without a potential approach plan.
- Keep it simple — Try to communicate the message in as few words as possible. Summarize. It takes longer to write a clear, concise, short sentence than a long one. Executives are busy people. The short sentence may be read while the long sentence is ignored. Use meaningful graphics; avoid "cutesy" animation. Executives don't want to feel that their time is being wasted on entertainment.
The bottom line in communicating with executives is to provide the information they want and need in a manner that is meaningful to them. Taking the time to investigate their information needs will make your communication efforts much more effective.
About the Author
Laura Williams, PMP, Trainer and Consultant with Corporate Education Group, has more than 20 years of experience in the project management arena. For the last 10 years, as a Senior Consultant with a consulting firm, she has advised companies from many business sectors, on project management practice and implementation in an enterprise environment. In addition to process consultation, she also provides training in project management processes and tools.