Lack of communication in project management

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Failure of projects are often a result of poor communication between the project management and stakeholders. The purpose of this article is to investigate the contributory cause for the lack of communication skills between all parties within a project. A study conducted by Project Management institution (PMI) shows that a third of the time a project fails, it is due to poor communication. This means that the topic is often overlooked and not prioritised like other important components in a successful project. Using communication theory analysis, it highlights the importance of what good communication can do for a project, and which outcomes can occur if communication fails. There are many aspects on how communication fails in a project. Project managers and stakeholders needs to engage in the ongoing process in each step, to ensure that all the parties agree upon each benchmark. By doing so this will minimise the risk of major failures in the late stages of projects, where there will be a chance to correct the mistake without necessarily adding more money to the project or prolonging the final submission of the project.

To improve the communication within a project there must be an agreement between all participating parties. The following agreement could be on international projects.

• Language that is used for the project

• Communication channels

• Programs

• Organisational chart

• Time schedule

• Total coast

Big Idea

Communication is the most important part in life. Everything is based upon that, whether its human beings or animals, we need to communicate in a way to understand each other. Communities are built upon communication, which the word itself comes from communication. However, all essence needs to communicate to understand each other due to the fact that you can’t read a person’s mind or know what they want. Communications can be defined in various forms, mostly by body language, signals and oration. Although we need communication to understand one another, there will be sometimes where it’s the opposite, that we misunderstand one another. This article will highlight how we as human beings interact with each other. Application

To obtain an understanding of how communications is defined, three models will be analysed.

Transmission model

Interaction model

Transaction model

Transmission model – Shannon and Weaver

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Transmission model – Shannon and Weaver model of communication was introduced in 1948 by American mathematician, electronic engineer Claude Elwood Shannon and scientist Warren Weaver in the article’’ A Mathematical Theory of Communication’’ published in ‘’Bell Labs Technical Journal’’. They were working in the telephone industry and came up with the simple model in 1940’s, that covers a linear conversation. This model was ‘’ an eye-opener’’ for communication theory models, that later on developed and models were introduced.

The model is designed with a main focus of information that can be defined as the sending and receiving of a particular message to create shared meaning. Typically used for nonverbal technology, a one-way model.

Information source, a sender – Person A sends an information, a message.

Transmitter, encoder'' – The information encodes into a message, it could be into a language.

Channel, Noise – The message transmits through a channel.

Reception, Decoder – The message is now decoded to the receiver.

Destination, Receiver – Person B receives the message.

Interaction model – Paul Watzlawick

Paul Watzlawick was an Austrian psychologist who had PhD degree in philosophy, studied psychotherapy in Switzerland at the Carl Jung Institute, and was also a professor at Standford University. With his background and knowledge, he and some other of his colleagues introduced this theory with the statement of ‘’ You cannot not communicate’’

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This model is based on interactional communication. Compered to the Shannon and Weaver model where the meaning is in words, this model focus on the meaning in people. In other words, the shared meaning is through people and not words. People are senders and receivers at the same time. It’s a two-way and not a one-way communication theory. We are booth senders and receivers simultaneously.

To understand the interaction theory model, there is five axioms that is defined.

1. ‘’One cannot not communicate’’ – A person will always communicate somehow, whether it’s nonverbal or verbal, there will be some signals and body language that will be expressed.

2. ‘’The content and relationship levels of communication, metacommunication’’– Depending on which social scene you are in, the interpretation of the communication can vary. People will construe your message differently based on the relationship you have to one another.

3. ‘’Punctuation of the sequence of events’’ – Each participant will punctuate each sequence differently in an interaction, according to their own experience and personality. In a communicative event "every item in the sequence is simultaneously stimulus, response, and reinforcement" (Bateson & Jackson qtd. in Watzlawick, Beavin, and Jackson, 1967, p. 4)

4. ‘’Digital and analogical communication’’ – Verbal and nonverbal communication can be interpreted in various ways. It’s not what you say, but it’s how you say it, that the receiver will interpret the message. Digital communication is most likely to be the word that is used in a context without expressing the sequence of the message, whereas analogical communication has both the context and the expression. Analogical communication has both verbal and nonverbal message in a conversation.

5. ‘’Symmetrical and complementary interaction’’ – This axiom defines the relationship between the communicators. Symmetrical interaction is when everyone is equal in their power status. This can be the relationship between two colleagues, brothers and sisters and so on. Complementary interaction is the opposite to symmetrical, where the power of status is different, there is a hierarchy. It could be the relationship between an employee and the manager, student and a teacher, father and son and so on.

Transactional model – Dean Barnlund Dean Barlund was an American communication educator who in the 1970’s created the Transactional model of communication. The model defines the individuals that are simultaneously involved in sending and receiving a message, it’s a two-way model. Interpersonal communication is the main focus, where more individuals are involved in an event. Each person decodes a message according to their cultural, ethnic, experience and educational background.

Dean Barnlunds five principle

1. Communication is not a thing, it’s a process

2. Communication is not linear, its circular

3. Communication is complex

4. Communication is irreversible

5. Communication involves the total personality

Transactional model would be common to use in a project where there is interpersonal communication. When it comes to communication in a project where several parties are involved on international basis, there would occur some misunderstandings. This will occur because the way a human being interprets the message depending on many factors, such as experience and background.

To avoid misunderstandings and to ensure successful communications, four core elements can be defined.

• Stakeholder identification and analysis The audience needs to be identified to ensure they get the right message.

• Message clarity and consistency Ensure a clear and relevant message to gain the trust. Everyone interprets the message in their own way, and there for it’s important that the message is clear.

Effective system of message delivery Ensure the stakeholders receives the message in an effective way, within the effective time. An agreement can be set upon which system the communication channel has to be processed through. It can be a channel where all parties are familiar with, to provide a clear understanding of the messages.

• Feedback collection system Feedback for the effectiveness of the communications process. It’s important to evaluate and to have some feedback for the systems that is used between the stakeholders. The early a problem or a misunderstanding is solved, the less the consequence or maybe no consequence it will have on a project.

Engaging stakeholders regularly in the process of the project will lead to a successful project. An excellent tool for the engagement can be

Project communications plan, where following is defined

WHO? - Identify audience for the project

WHAT? – Determine massaging type

HOW? – Delivery method

WHEN? – Determine frequency of schedule

OWNER? – Message source

When everyone in the project are knowledgeable about the chosen components in a plan, it is easier to communicate and understand the message. This will ease the process in the project and provides a successful organising structure.


When it comes to communication three communication models have been analysed to give a better understand of how people communicate to prevent communication failure.

Transmission model which is the one-way model of communication and one of the first communication models, which is mostly used for sending/sharing a massage and doesn’t not explain the understanding and the emotions in the message compared to the other communications models. It’s a linear communication model.

Interaction model which is a two-way communication model is used to define how individuals communicate with a sender and receiver, where emotions and experience form the understand of how the message will be interpreted. It’s a circular conversation and not a linear conversation. It can be a conversation between two people, where they communicate about a subject. Non-verbal and verbal communication is defined in this model. Disadvantage of this communication form is, if the participants is from the same hierarchy, and wants to take a decision, in for instance a project, and both have different decisions without compromising.

Transaction model which is a dynamic, a two-way communication model and a circular model, is defined where the participants in the models are mentioned as, ’communicators’’. It’s used for interpersonal conversations. The message in this model is not only formed by the individual based on their experience and background, but also from their cultural, ethnicity, behaviour and experience. This model is used where serval people are communicating in an event, such as in a meeting. Simultaneous message sending, where the communicators have a shared fields experience. The disadvantage of this model is when all the communicators are communicating at the same time in a meeting, then the person who is presenting will not be able to present the message of the presentation.

Overall when analysing the communication models, it provides an understanding of how individuals reacts and understands a message. Therefor to ensure a good communication, everything has to be clear to all parties that is participated in a conversation.

References The Human Communication process 2018 p. 8-10 Communication plan

Diagram for interactional model

page 67

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