Effective Communication in Project Management

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Developed by Alessandro Palmerini

The word communication will be used here in a very broad sense to include all of the procedures by which one mind may affect another. This, of course involves not only written and oral speech, but also music, pictorial arts, the theatre, the ballet and in fact all human behaviour. In some connections it may be desirable to use a still broader definition of communication, namely, one which would include the procedures by means of which one mechanism (say automatic equipment to track an airplane and to compute its probable future positions) affects another mechanism (say a guided missile chasing this airplane).

Warren W. Weaver [1]

This article aims to show some methods of communication and how effective communication can lead to a successful project, in particular setting the goal to show how these types of communication help readers understanding the importance of communication in project teamworks. An example has been taken into account to look through how members of teamwork can communicate each others to achieve the same goal and how people can share information in a larger scale.


Methods of Communication

Nowadays, It is known the importance of communication in our daily lives. Specially in companies, where in most cases teamworks are created to carry out short-term or long-term projects. Therefore, in the following part of the article some methods of communication are explained.

Visual Communication

Visual communication is one of the methods used to communicate information or expression of ideas through a visual form. Information could be communicated also by draw, pictures, charts or graphs.

One example of visual communication is represented through a great tool that is utilized by many different project management, agile and even Six Sigma disciplines is the Ishikawa or fishbone diagram. An Ishikawa diagram is used to ensure that a balanced list of ideas is generated during brainstorming or that major possible causes were not overlooked. Given its simplicity, it is easy to see why it has gained acceptance across so many disciplines. It also only takes a pen and paper (or whiteboard and marker) to get started, and it can be used during any phase of a project. Brainstorming, root-cause analysis, documenting a process flow’s inputs/outputs and the possible scenarios where it can be used makes this an indispensable tool for all team members. It should be used on a regular basis when communicating ideas or issues and is a prime example of the power of visual communication.

These techniques aim to get at the root causes of a problem and not just the symptoms. Kaoru Ishikawa,a Japanese Quality pioneer, introduced a very visual ‘Fishbone’ diagram that helps a whole team focus on this and get rapidly to consensus. This diagram:

•Resembles the skeleton of a fish

•Focus on causes rather than symptoms of a problem

•Emphasizes group communication and brainstorming

•Stimulates discussion

The first step is to get clarity and assumption on what the problem is to get a focused problem statement. A problem might be stated originally as ‘customers complain of poor service‘. After discussion, this might be refined to ‘Poor resolution of technical queries on evenings and weekends’. This tighter statement helps focus the task of getting to the root cause of the problem. This problem statement is put at the ‘head’ of the fish, along with the fish’s backbone:

Figure 1: Fishbon diagram.

The next step is to brainstorm potential causes of the problem. This may be argumented by prior research by the team, using metrics and statistical analysis if appropriate. The major types of cause are then laid out as large bones connected to the backbone. Either of two alternative approaches should be used:

•Categories of causes:

o For a production/manufacturing process, these usually are People, Materials, Machinery/Equipment, Methods, Environment and Measurement.

o For a service process, they are often People, Policies, Procedures (the flow of the process), Location (Equipment/Space) and Measurement.

•Process steps: the major process steps are used.

The key is to be flexible and use the category type and categories themselves most appropriate to the problem in hand, based on the causes surfaced from the brainstorm. [2]

Effective Communication

Improving the communication skills is necessary to be a good manager. Managers should be sure to establish an effective communication between him/her and the rest of the colleagues. Following explanations of three different methods of communication that with the good skill of listening of the manager could lead manager to be an effective communicator. Also having feedback from employees is a good way to be an effective communicator because managers have the opportunity to gain new ideas from others and meanwhile lead employees to a higher level of motivation ( they can come out with their ideas ).

Interactive push pull.jpg

Figure 2: Different methods of effective communication.

The project manager decides, based on communication requirements, what, how, and when communication methods are to be used in the project. This process requires discussion and dialogue with the project team to determine the most appropriate way to update and communicate project information, and to respond to requests from various stakeholders for that information.

Interactive Communication

Interactive communication is an exchange of ideas where both participants, whether human, machine or art form, are active and can have an effect on one another. It is a dynamic, two-way flow of information. [3] Many forms of communication previously thought one-way, like books and television, have become interactive with the rise of computers, the Internet, and digital and mobile devices. These developing collaborative technologies, or new media, have rapidly increased the opportunities for interactive communication across mediums, disciplines, cultures, social classes, locations, and even time.

Interactive communication is a modern term that encompasses these evolving forms of conversation. It is a primary characteristic of the present Information Age. New experiments in interaction design are evolving on a daily basis.

Interactive communication forms include basic dialogue and nonverbal communication, gamebooks, interactive fiction and storytelling, hypertext, interactive television and movies, photo and video manipulation, video sharing, video games, social media, user-generated content, interactive marketing and public relations, augmented reality, ambient intelligence, and virtual reality.

An interactive communication is required when the communication is likely to be misinterpreted. Every stakeholder can respond to each other in real time

Figure 3: Interactive, Push and Pull differences.

Push Communication

This type of communication is used from sender to receiver. It is preferable when the sender sends information and do not want an immediate response from receiver or when the information do not need immediate response because is not pressing or as important. Examples of Push Communication are : emails, letter, reports or faxes. It is not a face-to-face communication but always an information through a written medium.

Take, for example, you have a technical issue that demands immediate attention, and you alert the Tech department of your company to fix it. You send the Tech guy a mail. He isn't available for the day and is therefore not able to receive and attend to your mail. You only know that the mail you wrote has been successfully sent. You do not know if he has received it or not. You will only know that he has when he comes and fixes our problem that will be the next day. [4]

Pull Communication

This type of communication is used from sender to a large audience. All members that want to have information can access to in through a common way. Example of Pull Communication are post on websites, Podcasts, blogs, exc. The reicever has to recover this information.

A sample-case scenario would be when you have enrolled for a project management course and need access to more inputs on your course, and you begin to search for relevant information from the Articles/Ebooks that is available on the training provider’s site itself. [5]

Communication in Project Management

Communication is one of the most important part of project management. Working on a project there must be a good communication between who is planning the work and who is working on it. A successful project manager must be a great communicator. Doing the same things with the same people in the same place is never possible because the projects are always different, and for these reasons every project needs the best way to communicate between manager and workers. As a result, employing effective communication methods are necessary to ensure project success.

The lack of communication has been specifically linked to problems in new development and project failures. Communication is the vehicle through which personnel from multiple functional areas share information that is so critical to the successful implementation of projects. Making decisions, managers must both acquire and disseminate information in order to serve a number of distinct purposes, all related to improving the interactions among members of the project team and to the ultimate successful implementation of the project. One of the reason that lead project team members to communicate is to brainstorm about ideas , to resolve implementation problems, for example, scheduling changes, and to review the progress of the project. 

Communication and Cross-Functional Cooperation within a Project Team

Nowadays, companies are moving on project management and on preject teams for the development and implementation of new products and programs due to competition with other companies and the implementation of innovations. One of the main point of developing new programs is the degree of cross-functional cooperation achieved within a projecft team. Therefore, is very important for project having a helping, cooperative atmosphere. For these reasons ,communication plays a fundamental role in the project teams.


Figure 4: Cross Functional team project

In this article are reported some methods of communication but to understand how and why communication is important within the projects, the following research it is exposed; Specifically, this research examined a behavioral variable: project team communication and its relationship to cross-functional cooperation.

The need for cross-functional cooperation stems from the complex functional interdependencies within organizations. Organizations consist of several interrelated functional units. In attempting to develop and implement new programs, one functional area may not have direct authority over other departments. Cooperation is necessary to link interdependent functions together and assure their contribution to the overall goals of the organization; How is suggested, greater interdependence requires a greater cooperation effort ( Thompson [6]). Problems associated with cross-functional cooperation result from not only the interdependence of work process and technology, but from conflicts over authority and jurisdiction among different units. Cross-functional cooperation is important in the implementation of marketing decisions because cooperation has been shown to promote productivity by helping individuals perform more effectively. people in cooperation tend to understand and be influenced by each others’ interest and ideas, seek and give information, communicate about tasks, more readily assist each other and rely on division of labor (Laughlin [7]).

Figure 5: Example of Team Project Communication Plan

Psychosocial outcomes refer to how individuals involved in an implementation effort “feel” about the implementation process. To date, psychosocial outcomes have not been adequately addressed to determine their impact on successful project implementation. The psychosocial outcomes generated from a completed project can have a powerful impact on the attitudes and activities of project team members in future projects. If the process was enjoyable and devoid of interpersonal and technical problems, it is likely that team members will approach future projects with a more positive frame of mind, as compared to instances in which they were involved in projects fraught with dimculties. Successful implementation of new programs is assessed by two components: task outcomes and psychosocial outcomes. Task outcomes refer to factors involved in the actual implementation of the project (time, schedule and performance) and its subsequent usage or performance. Psychosocial outcomes refer to whether or not the implementation process was considered to be worthwhile, satisfying and productive.In this case two Hypothesis can result. -The greater the degree of cross-functional cooperation achieved among project team members, the higher the evaluation of task outcomes. -The greater the degree of cross-functional cooperation achieved among project team members, the higher the evaluation of psychosocial outcomes. [8]

Example of Pull Communication in a real life case

World Community Grid; Fighting against Cancer

Currently, the primary methods used to evaluate tissue microarrays involve manual, interactive review of samples during which they are subjectively evaluated and scored. An alternate, but less utilized strategy is to sequentially digitize specimens for subsequent semi-quantitative assessment. Both procedures ultimately involve the interactive evaluation of TMA samples, which is a slow, tedious process that is prone to human error. Much of the difficulty in rendering consistent evaluation of expression patterns in cancer tissue microarrays is due to subjective impressions of observers.

IBM's World Community Grid will enable the most computationally expensive components of the software to run at optimal speed, thereby increasing the accuracy and sensitivity with which expression calculations and pattern recognition procedures can be conducted. By harnessing the collective computational power of World Community Grid, researchers will be able to analyze a larger set of cancer tissue specimens and conduct experiments using a much broader ensemble of biomarkers and stains than is possible using traditional computer resources.

To date, only a fraction of the known biomarkers have been examined. The long-term goal is to create a library of biomarkers and their expression patterns so that, in the future, physicians can consult the library to help them in rendering diagnoses and providing the most effective treatment for patients with cancer.

Figure 6: World Community Grid

World Community Grid; Communication Tool

In the absence of World Community Grid, TMA's are processed in individual or small batches. Using World Community Grid, analysis can be carried out for hundreds of arrays in parallel, allowing multiple experiments to be conducted simultaneously. This added level of speed and sophistication could potentially enable investigators to detect and track subtle changes in measurable parameters, thereby facilitating discovery of prognostic clues, which are not apparent by human inspection or traditional analysis alone and could advance the fields of cancer biology, drug discovery and therapy planning.

Mapping Cancer Markers aims to improve and personalize cancer treatment. The project has three goals: first, to identify markers that can be used to detect cancer earlier; second, to identify high-risk cancer patients; and third, to find markers that can predict treatment response.

Mapping Cancer Markers will also enable researchers to develop even more efficient and effective computational methods for discovering relevant patterns of markers. This could help make the use of markers in personalized medicine more practical and more broadly applicable to other cancers and other complex diseases. [9]


It can be possible to find some limitations about the communication in a cross-functional cooperation: First, these kind of patterns of communication exist in strong cross-functional project teams as opposed for those with low level of cooperation. The main point seems be how and which informal forms of communication are used by team members. Second, As it was stated during the article , a vital element in the intragroup cooperation construct is that of communication. Therefore, an attempt to regress the cross-functional communication could lead to a unwanted conclusion.


Communication is one of the fundamental aspects for the construction of a team group working on a project. The results have implications for managers that have to act in order to ensure the correct approach to the project and improve the execution of a successful project.

Looking through the methods of communication, it can be seen that the visual communication approach and in particular the example of the Fishbon Diagram denote that: Team group can focusing on the ideas through a visual approach that is easier to understand and simplify the emphasis team members set on the brainstorming and on the problems that come out.

As said previously the lack of effective communication can lead to problems in new development or project failure. The findings demonstrated the importance of relationship between patterns of communication and cross-functional cooperation The term ‘Accessibility’ represents and individual perception or the liberty of an someone to approach or communicate with another project team member. It is vital for managers to employ the best way to drive the continual accessibility among personnel from different functional areas and employ the techniques that lead to the best way possible in order to achieve the aim of the projects.

Finally, with the example of the World Community Grid it can be seen how a tool ( in this case a software ) could allow the communication between different country and different points of view from different researchers. This tool opens the doors through projects that are carried on from different country allowing multiple experiments to be conducted simultaneously.


  1. , Warren W. Weaver (1949), Recent Contributions to the Mathematical Theory of Communication (1949), http://www.panarchy.org/weaver/communication.html 'This paper is written in three main sections, where the author write the first and the third while the second section is an interpretation of mathematical papers by Dr. Claude E. Shannon of the Bell Telephone Laboratories. The topic of the paper explain the problems of communication in three levels'
  2. ,© City Process Management 2008 , Cause and Effect Analysis using the Ishikawa Fishbone,web:http://www.cityprocessmanagement.com 'In this reference the Fishbone Diagram is explained'
  3. ,Wikipedia , Interactive Communication,https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interactive_communication 'The Interactive Communication definitions and meaning from Wikipedia'
  4. Push Communication, http://www.free-management-ebooks.com/faqpm/team-07.htm 'Explanation of Push Communication and meaning'
  5. Pull Communication, http://www.simplilearn.com/interactive-vs-push-vs-pull-communication-in-project-management-article 'Explanation of Pull Communication and meaning'
  6. Thompson, J.D., Organizations in Action,New York: McGraw- Hill, 1967 'This reference is used only for one specific sentense '
  7. Laughlin, P.R., Ability and group problem solving,Ptiurnuf of Research and Development in Education it:li4-120 (1978). 'This reference is used only for one specific sentense '
  8. ,Pinto, Mary Beth ; Pinto, Jeffrey K. (1990) , Project Team Communication and Cross-Functional Cooperation in new Program Development,Journal of Product Innovation Management- 1990, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp.200-212 'This article written by Pinto Mary and Jeffrey explain the importance of communication for the successful development of new projects and how it affect the cross-functional cooperation between project workteams;In the article it is explained also the difference between formal and informal modes and reason for communication; Finally there is a research example.'
  9. World Community Grid; Help Defeat Cancer: Project Overview,IBM , http://www.worldcommunitygrid.org/research/hdc/overview.do https://secure.worldcommunitygrid.org/research/mcm1/details.do 'This is the website where it could be possible to find details of World Community grid that is the example of the article.It is expressed how the World Community Grid works, how it allow to contact people and how people share information through this tool.'
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