Communication issues can lead to some pretty ugly situations, just ask New Jersey. A little miscommunication about tax requirements cost them a not-so-little $200 million dollars in revenue back in 2010.
Miscommunication can lead to pretty epic project failures as well, and it’s not at all surprising considering that 60 – 80% of IT project failures can be laid at the feet of miscommunication, depending on whether you’re talking to Gartner or Forrester Research.
Sometimes it’s not miscommunication that kills projects, it’s the lack of it. A 2010 study made the following grim discovery:
“What we learned was alarming. The research suggests that the culprit in 85% of project failures is silence. The study showed that there is a definable set of project communication problems that are far more common than most senior leaders realize. An estimated 90% of project managers routinely encounter one or more of five critical problems in the course of a project, but the killer is the silence that follows. Initiatives are derailed when people are unwilling or unable to have conversations about the problems they see.”
"For IT Projects, Silence Can Be Deadly”, ComputerWorld
So, whether it’s a miscommunication, or lack thereof, what can your organization do to prevent the same errors from popping up?
Put Everyone on the Same Page
Make sure everyone involved in the project understands how the project aligns with the organization’s goals, its importance, scope and expected schedule. One of the strengths of our project request engine is that key project sponsors and stakeholders can see the project goals, scope, budget and Work Breakdown structure, providing everyone an identical, clear picture of what the initiative is for, what the costs are, and what work will be required.
Require Consistent Communication.
Regular, detailed status reporting helps ensure the success of a project- make sure project leaders understand that these reports are required, and to be delivered on schedule. Project status reports should be delivered to project stakeholders, sponsors, and organizational decision makers – even team members. If the project is off track, everyone needs to know so that everyone can do what needs doing, and put it back on the rails. Our product, Project Tracker.Net, sends automated email reminders for status report due dates that put the recipients one click away from their responsibility.
Don’t Kill the Messenger
The most pervasive and crippling habit for project teams is the under-reporting of problems facing the initiative. The temptation to stick one’s head in the sand and hope for the best, rather than be the bearer of bad news, is very strong. To counter this, establish an environment of accountability, and recognize those who step up to point out potential issues.
But reporting is only half the battle. Establish a system for managing issues:
- Profile the issue.
- Develop a plan for mitigating the issue, and assign resources to it.
- Monitor the status of the issue as it is resolved.
Taking these three steps: establishing a common understanding, enforcing consistent communication and creating an environment for open discussion, will ensure the success of projects within your portfolio.