As team leaders and as the primary connection between the development team and the client, project managers (PMs) spend more than ninety percent of the day communicating. As many people in the field would say, it is this skill that makes or breaks a project, even before a single line of code is written.
Communication is often seen as "not essential" or "unproductive." However, ambiguity and lack of clarity are the most common roots of issues whenever requirements are being acquired, or questions are being solved. That's why we need to pay special attention to how we communicate. Yet a couple of words can change the outcome of a requirement and then cost the team a lot of time and resources.
These ideas might indicate that a good professional should easily apply all their knowledge to this area, but that's not always the case. Someone might be an excellent professional, but that does not mean they will inherently become a good manager. Thankfully a person can develop the necessary soft skills to become a good communicator and, therefore, an exceptional Project Manager. However, here at IO Connect, we believe leaders can be made.
Communication toolkit for Project Managers
A Project Manager may have a lot of toolkits at their disposal to better implement the plans set for a project. One of these toolkits is there to improve the ambiguity and accessibility of information within a project. There are countless reports, schedules, diagrams, charts, and the like that can help any Project Manager. Whether you are starting or have years of experience, you can find new tools for your needs. Here are three that can help manage different project stages:
Probably the most common document to be found in any project, the Project Charter is a document that formally authorizes a project. It can also sometimes be referred to as a project definition report. As the name suggests, it is essential for any new project, even if it is sometimes done less formally on smaller projects. It primarily documents the business needs, project justification, customer requirements, and new products and services intended to satisfy customer requirements.
A project charter will commonly address the following information:
- Project Name and number
- Name of the project sponsor
- Name of the project manager, responsibilities, and authority
- Business needs or product requirements of the project
- Project purpose, why does the project exist?
- Customer Requirements
- Milestone schedule
- Budget summary
- Stakeholders' information
- Functional organizations involved
Since this is the first document to be created in any project, it is evident that this is done before any work is started in the project; therefore, this information is not set in stone. It should not be a static document. It should change while the work is being done. That's why the project charter describes what should be done and not how it should be done.
Change Request Document
Organizations should have a template for this document since, more often than not, changes will occur in any project. A project manager should prepare the change request with the team's help once a modification to the baseline scope, schedule, and cost has been recognized. This document will later be reviewed and approved by the business owner, project sponsor, and any necessary stakeholders. Until the change is approved, it is not part of the plan, and the team should continue working within the initial set parameters.
The following information is necessary to create a change request:
- Project name and number
- Author of the document
- Date when the change request was raised
- People needed to approve the change
- Information about the project. Current objectives, budget, and schedule
- Does the change apply to scope, schedule, cost, or more than one of those?
- What is the change? Summary of the change compared to the baseline
- Justification for the change, including what value the change adds
- The financial and business impact of not implementing the change
- Information on other alternatives that were explored. In case there are no other alternatives, document that too
- The economic, schedule, and business impacts of pursuing the change
- Risks and assumptions related to the change
- Names of the approvers, their organization, contact information, and the date they approved the document
- Project deliverables that require an update because of the change
Lessons Learned Document
As stated before, a project constantly changes from the original starting point. However, we should not stop planning for a project. Instead, we should use the necessary tools to adapt the project plan during the execution. It's helpful to compile all the lessons learned throughout the project's life.
Even if there is no "right way" to enlist all the information from the lessons each project has given us, it is essential to keep track of the following:
- Acknowledge when a part of the process had a significant blocker or problem, find the possible causes, and plan for a different method of working through them.
- Review the best practices with the team, enlist the most helpful, and continue implementing them on other projects whenever possible.
- Identify when a change had to be made from the original baseline of the project, review the factors involved, and learn how the change could have been avoided in the earlier stages of the project for future reference.
It can be challenging to meet with the team while the project is still in progress. The Project Manager's job is to write the lessons learned after completing the project so everybody involved can share their perspective. If a person is leaving the organization or dropping out before the project ends, try to have this session earlier to get the point of view of the different roles.
The Importance and Balance of Documentation
A mature organization will have a repository of all the documents created over the organization's life. So, any team member can easily access helpful information, best practices, and possible risks for future reference.
Different documents might be needed depending on the circumstances but remember to keep it concise. If you spend all your time documenting, you won't spend enough time with your team and client. A good balance will set you up for success.
Find out other ways the Project Management team can help you in future projects by contacting IO Connect today.
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