Team Collaboration

Here is How to Avoid Project Communication Breakdowns

project communication breakdowns

I’m sure you know poor project communication can completely derail your team when trying to meet deadlines.

In fact, 30 percent of teams cite poor communication as as the leading cause of project failure.

But it’s difficult knowing how to avoid communication issues, even for experienced project managers.

And that’s why I’ve put together this post aimed at showing you exactly how to stay away from project communication issues and keep your team on track to meet their deadlines.

Interested? Let’s dive in.

Step 1: Find Out What (or Who) is the Source of Poor Project Communication

Discovering the source of your communication breakdown tells you exactly where to focus your solution.

That’s why it’s important to do a full audit of your team’s communication habits to uncover where there’s opportunity to bridge the gap.

To get you started, here are some of the most common factors to investigate:

Technology Issues

Before project management tools with chat functions entered the SaaS market, project managers struggled to find adequate technology to help their teams effectively communicate.

Luckily for you, it’s much easier now to get teams working together on one platform where communication is:

  1. Streamlined. Brought together into a single solution rather than a few disjointed tools.
  2. Documented. Accurate communication logs exist for easy reference.
  3. Integrated. Brought together with relevant project documents and tasks.

And data shows using the right tool can have a huge impact.

“Team communication” was the #1 area of business significantly improved by teams that use project management software.

team collaboration

(image source)

A Disjointed Hand-off Process

When teams don’t know where, when, and how to communicate next steps in a project, it might be time to revisit your hand-off process.

That’s because good project communication requires the right training to make sure teams know exactly how to move a project from one step to the next.

But it’s not just training that makes a difference: your team culture plays a role in how well teams communicate with one another, too.

Lawrence Suda, CEO of The Palatine Group, explained why at a Project Management Institute Global Congress meetup:

“A strong culture shapes an organization’s decision patterns, guides actions, and drives individual behavior of all members. In its most obvious form, it is ‘The way we do things around here to succeed.’ In its less visible form, it encompasses the shared beliefs, norms, symbols, values, attitudes that permeate all parts of the organization.”

In other words, culture impacts the way teams and individuals work together. Without a strong team culture, it’s tough for employees to get a grip on the way things get done within your organization.

That means if your hand-off process is suffering, turning attention toward project flow training might just be the first step.

You may also need to give your team culture a much-needed reboot in order to see a positive impact on project communication.

Leadership

I’ll admit, sometimes it’s hard to see that the communication problem might not be the team, your tools, or the process but…

You.

You know that leaders set the example for how the rest of the team in all areas of the business – project communication included.

And that’s why it’s so important to regularly reflect on your own communication skills.

According to the Harvard Business Review, 91 percent of employees say poor communication prevents leaders from being truly effective.

communication challenges for leaders

Crazy, right?

And so, figuring out your own communication weaknesses should be a top priority before even attempting to shift the mindset of the team.

Step 2: Train Your Team to Become Experts in Your Project Flow

Like I mentioned before, teams need to align on how to communicate with each other to properly hand-off a project.

That’s why project managers should invest the time to thoroughly train your people on your process flow.

When you teach your team exactly how to move projects along, you take away the excuse ofI didn’t know you wanted me to do that.

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Instead, you set up a clear communication plan with training that you can easily roll out again as new people join your organization.

That’s why 60% of organizations have ongoing training for their team on the tools and techniques that help them operate more efficiently and effectively.

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(image source)

Step 3: Use Team Chat to Open Doors for Better Collaboration

Ever tried to coordinate dinner plans with a handful of friends?

Then you know there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to bring together several separate conversations to accomplish a goal.

And that’s the same problem project managers like you face everyday.

Teams communicate with each other on crucial project details in whichever way they choose – in-person, on the phone, via email, or through a chat tool that you hasn’t been introduced to the wider team.

And as Cassie Marketos explains it over on the HelpScout blog, communication silos can be disastrous for project communication.

“Teams that don’t consistently communicate between themselves are in danger of repeating, rather than reinforcing, each other’s hard work. The result is eroded goodwill, impeded progress, and, ultimately, frustrated customers.”

That’s why considering a team chat tool might be the best solution for your communication problems.

Here’s a look at what team chat looks like within Zapty:

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Of course, there are plenty of options for different team chat platforms, but only a select few will have the perfect mix of features and integrations you need to help improve your project communication.

Here’s what you should look for:

An All-In-One Solution

I’m sure you’ll agree that there’s no sense in having one tool for your chat, another for managing deadlines and then a cloud solution (like Google Drive or Dropbox) for organizing relevant documents.

And so, strive to find a solution that brings all of your collaboration together under one roof.

A Tool that Promotes Transparency

You know a chat tool that’s specific to just one team doesn’t help solve the problem.

(In fact, it would almost certainly make things worse.)

The goal of project communication should be to open doors for all teams to collaborate and quickly reference each other’s work.

And that also means it should be easier for you to keep a high-level view of project completion and how your teams are working together.

Contextual Task Collaboration

As I mentioned earlier, a big challenge with overcoming project communication breakdowns is managing simultaneous conversations.

Contextual task collaboration, however, allows to maintain all project communication within the context of an actual task.

Because of that, all interactions stay relevant to the context of the project or the task at hand.

Step 4: Make Using the New Tool Mandatory (Starting with You)

Remember what I mentioned earlier about setting an example for the rest of the team?

Well that especially applies when rolling out a new tool to your entire team.

63 percent of businesses say they are too slow to adopt new technology.

And that’s why you need to lead by example and begin communicating on project-related matters exclusively through your new tool (or when necessary in designated team meetings).

If team members come to you with questions or you notice conversations on a project happening outside the chat, step-in to reinforce the importance of communicating within the chat.

You can remind them that the chat makes it so that the rest of the team can easily reference the conversation.

(Or just tell them it’s mandatory, and they’ll thank you later.)

Step 5: Track and Review the Impact of Your New Solution Quarterly

I’m sure you know project communication will be an evolving process – you may not get it right the first time.

But that’s precisely why it’s so important to track and review data surrounding the impact of your new solution at least once per quarter.

Here are some specific metrics you could measure to track the ROI of your new solution:

 

  • Project Time to Completion.

 

Are you completing projects faster than before you implemented the solution?

 

  • Increase/Decrease in Met Deadlines.

 

Has the percentage of met deadlines increased or decreased?

 

  • Increase/Decrease in Change Requests.

 

Are teams requesting fewer revisions as a result of your new solution?

 

  • Customer Satisfaction.

 

Have positive reviews and testimonials increased?

 

  • Employee Engagement.

 

What percentage of employees actively engage with your solution on a daily/weekly basis?

Closing Thoughts

Poor project communication can break down an otherwise effective agency, causing you to miss deadlines and leave customers dissatisfied.

But by evaluating the cause of your communication breakdown and then implementing a solution that works well for your entire team (including you), your project flow will improve, leading to better employee morale and customer satisfaction.

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