Shannon even applies in projects

PM Milestone Project Management Templates

PM Milestone Business Templates

Get Instant Access

Figure 2

In every communication there is some information which is to be communicated. This information is encoded in some way - the English (or other) language, a diagram, etc. The encoded information is then transmitted through a medium - maybe that's air, if two people are standing talking, or mail when a signed contract is mailed back, or email, when meeting minutes are distributed. The transmitted information travels along a path to the receiver, who will decode it, and hopefully interpret the information as that which the sender intended to send. However, associated with every transmission there is noise. The noise might be in the environment, as in a meeting is a room with open windows, with construction underway outside. The noise might be introduced by some participant or other factor, such as a secretary transcribing a voice message for a manager, where the secretary is unfamiliar with the issues and the participants, and therefore misinterprets some of the message, or misspells someone's name. Noise can even be generated in the mind of the receiver, who might be thinking about something else while listening to a presentation, or interpreting a word or phrase differently than the sender intended because the receiver's background in that area is quite different. In order to ensure that there were no encoding or interference problems with the communication, it is always wise to include a feedback loop, which can help to identify the fact that a miscommunication has occurred, and allow for early correction. In cases in which correct communication is critical, it is wise include some redundancy, just in case the primary communication is lost or corrupted.

Oral communications should always be kept to a professional level, even when high stress is involved, or disputes arise.

For all communication, the following principles should be adhered to:

IS Be objective No surprises

S Communicate what the listener needs/wants

S Establish procedures and guidelines for communication

S Keep it focused

Be objective

Most project communications are objective. However, in some environments, objectivity can get lost. In an environment which is fraught with politics, maintaining objectivity can be quite difficult. When any environment becomes stressful, especially over a long period of time, people can lose objectivity. Both politics and stress tend to be part of every project to some degree; so maintaining objectivity becomes a challenge in a project environment. Therefore the PM and the team need to plan for this, and to give some focus to ensuring that the communications remain objective. When objectivity begins to fail, it is important that this is recognized, and that everyone then works to remedy the problem. It is also important that people realize that this is a natural problem with project communications, and when it does happen, they need to refrain from blaming or pointing fingers. The important thing is to correct the problem, and get back to the work at hand.

No surprises

This means that when there is news that will have an impact on any stakeholder, this news should be communicated to the stakeholder. Even if the news is bad news. No one likes to receive bad news, and therefore people hesitate to communicate bad news. But if the project is going to be late, or over budget, or if the specs for some deliverable will not be met, people need to know this as early as possible. In fact, this knowledge will allow the affected party to plan for the altered situation, rather than being hit with the problem at the last minute when there might be much more difficult to deal with some of the problems.

Communicate what the listener needs/wants

Consider a management meeting at which corporate senior management are reviewing the status of multiple projects. Perhaps they have earlier reviewed the corporate financial picture, and found that in fact they cannot continue to fund all the projects that are currently underway because some critical project has seriously overspent, and their backers will not extend any further credit. Suppose that the PM for one project arrives to give project progress information and that this PM is a very technical person, working on a project that is the creation of a new service using some new technologies. To the PM, the biggest and most significant challenges with the project are probably technical. He is quite likely to focus heavily in his presentation on technical aspects of the project, to ensure that the management understands the issues and the excellent solutions his team is working on. In most cases, the management team will not consist of only technical people, so at least some of this team will not have a strong interest in the technical aspects of the project. For at least these people, the PM needs to ensure that other aspects are covered in the presentation. In addition, even if the management team were all technical people, their job is management, so their interests will be in the management information, such as the schedule and the financial aspects. In fact, by making the effort to get their agenda for their meeting ahead of time, and considering it carefully, the PM can determine that they are addressing finances, and can then conclude that he should be prepared to address this area clearly as they will undoubtedly be interested -probably more interested that they might normally be.

The point of this discussion is that the purpose of communications is to give information to the receiver. Therefore, the content and the style of any communication must be something that is meaningful and interesting to the receiver. Content that is of interest to the transmitter might be information that the receiver should have, but the responsibility lies with the transmitter to convey to the receiver why he needs to know. If the transmitter just conveys information that is interesting to him, there is no guarantee that it will be received. This should be clear to the reader if you think about sitting through a boring presentation. Probably the presenter was very interested in the information being presented. But if it was boring to you, you did not relate to the material as being either interesting or useful to you. In that case, how much of the presented material did you retain? If you needed to have all of the information, the sender should have prepared it differently to ensure that you would actually receive it all

Establish procedures and guidelines for communication

Since effective communication requires significant planning, the team needs to do significant planning. All of this is documented in the communications plan. As mentioned above, the team needs to document what needs to be communicated, by whom, to whom, when, why and how. And in determining the answers to these questions, the team needs to take into account the mindset and style of the receiver(s) of each communication.

One of the best tools for communications planning is a communications matrix. It is not necessary to use a matrix for this plan, but when communications are not overly complex, the creation of such a matrix can be relatively straightforward, and the tool provides concise but clear documentation.

One model for such a communications matrix is shown in Figure 3.

Communications Matrix





Information Gathering

Information To dojob





Function Mgr







Figure 3

Here we can see that the matrix shows the people involved in transmitting the communications on one axis and the categories for the purposes of the communications along the other. This would be further refined to show the actual communication events themselves along the top.

In the boxes the team puts the answers to the questions of when, why and how. This is often done by using letter codes if the picture is not too complex. At a minimum, the matrix should include the creation of, and communications of the wbs, charter, risk plan, etc.

Another key communication for every project is status reporting. Reports from the project team members to the PM should be included, as well as reports from the team to management, the customer, and perhaps other key stakeholders should also be planned.

Once the matrix has been created, someone must then be assigned to manage the activities identified in it to ensure that they occur. The PM can allow the team to determine the format, if that fits his management style, or, even allow the person assigned to matrix maintenance to come up with one -which consumes less time, and is fine, as long as it works for everyone.

This tool can be built fairly quickly, and it gives a structured way to consider all of the required communications. If something is forgotten it can be added to the matrix later.

In addition to the matrix, it is also wise to document some processes, formats or samples of any types of communications that might not clearly be understood by all senders. This avoids rework later.

One common method of communication is the holding of meetings. As important as meetings are in enabling communication and decisions, there is still a lack of understanding of how to use them most effectively. Particularly in a project environment, where time is generally in very short supply, it is very important for the team to use every minute productively. This can be done in meetings, as long as the meeting is properly planned. However, the planning must be done carefully, with thought given to the items to be covered, the people who should attend, the optimal sequence of events, and the time required. There are a number of established techniques for this, which differ from each other somewhat, but all have the goal of making the meeting productive, enjoyable and worthwhile for everyone involved.

The first step is the meeting planning. The chair of the meeting must carefully think through the details mentioned above. He can do this alone, or with some team members, or with someone whose specific role is meeting facilitation. We'll come back to the facilitator later. Start with the purpose of the meeting. Decide on the overall purpose of the meeting, and the objectives to be met - just as we do for projects. This will give a framework for the rest of the planning. Then think carefully through the steps that are required to attain the desired results. This takes some time, and some serious thought. It is a far cry from listing a set of topics and sending them in an email to a group of people.

The idea is that with proper planning, the meeting can flow well, with the attendees having all of the information they need at any given point in the meeting, either because they brought it with them, or because it has already been covered during the earlier part of the meeting. The agenda can be drawn up from these thoughts, with each step being entered into the agenda in the order in which they need to occur. So, step one in drafting the agenda is to determine the meeting purpose and objective. Step 2 is to list the items which need to be covered, in the order in which they should be addressed so that everyone will be properly informed. But, the agenda preparation does not finish here. Next the planning team must identify the purpose of each item on the list, and decide who would be the best person to handle that item to achieve the desired results. Then they need to decide how much time would be required to complete each item properly. In effect, the planning team thinks through the entire meeting, item by item, to ensure that they have things lined up properly, with everything included, all the right people in attendance, and the right amount of time allowed for addressing each item. They should also consider the fact that there is some overhead required as well. People may not all be sitting in the room at the appointed start time, so there should be an item listed first that allows for this. They should also ensure that they get feedback from the attendees on how each thought that the meeting went for him, in order to better plan for the next one. Including a few minutes at the end to summarize and evaluate the benefits and issues regarding the meeting overall can do this. Team and or corporate culture should be considered as well. Are people in the habit of coming to meetings on time? If not, they are not respecting the time of others. Do meetings usually start on time? If not, the chairs are not respecting the time of those who are there, and waiting. If the corporate culture is not one incorporating such respect, the PM might want to build such a culture for his project team, in order to both help people understand that they are respected, and also maximize the effectiveness of the meetings.

But we are not ready yet. Once the agenda has been established, the planners need to contact all of the people who will be playing major roles, such as making a presentation, or acting as a note-taker, to ensure that they can attend the meeting, and that they will be prepared and able to take on the responsibility.

In addition to the people handling each of the items, and the people who need to participate in these, or learn the information, there are some other key roles that should be filled. These are related to the running of the meeting itself, and most will generally be filled by people who are already attending the meeting anyway for other reasons. These roles include: meeting chair timekeeper note taker scribe facilitator

The meeting chair is generally the project manager, for project meetings, but this does not have to always be the case. If the meeting is focused on a specific project area, perhaps the prime from that area will chair the meeting. Sometimes a stakeholder, such as the customer, calls a meeting and then this stakeholder acts as chair. In formal meetings, which follow structured rules, such as Robert's Rules, the chair plays the specific role of directing the meeting, and generally does not vote unless there is a need, such as to break a tie. Even if the meeting doesn't follow strict structural rules, the chair should control the meeting, ensuring that the topics are addressed as planned, the behaviour of the participants is appropriate, and the objectives are being met, with clear action items being specified and assigned. The chair can participate in discussion, but he should show an open mind and attitude, not be pushing the participants towards his own desired conclusions.

The timekeeper plays a very important role at meetings. This person ensures that each item starts and finishes at the specified time. This includes giving the attendees advance notice prior to the arrival of the finish time. There will be times when the discussion of an item should really continue because the participants feel that they cannot reach the required result in the remaining time. The timekeeper is then faced with a problem, because this impacts the remaining agenda items. He should ask, at the time of the decision, which option the group wishes to chose. They can terminate the agenda item at the specified time, and set a later time at which they will reconvene to continue the discussion. They could allow the item to run on for a set additional time. But this means that they will then have to decide what to do about the impact on the agenda. They can extend the meeting end time, and just move the times for the remaining items back by the amount of overflow time. Or, they can reduce the time for an upcoming item, or postpone one of those items to another time. While it might well be necessary to extend the item, each of the consequences does have an impact on the attendees, and if this impact is problematic, it should be mentioned in the meeting evaluation report, to facilitate better planning for future meetings.

The role of the note-taker is to document the meeting flow clearly and later, prepare the minutes. Meeting minutes should not be written as a novel. They should be concise, and clear. They should mention all of the agenda items, showing the key results, and identifying all action items, with the names of the people responsible for them, and the due dates. Before minutes are finalized, they should be circulated to the attendees in draft form for their approval. In some cases all attendees should be polled to identify errors or omissions; in others just some key people participate in this process. Once the minutes have been approved, they become the official record of the meeting, and the chair should follow up on the action items until all have been completed.

The function of the scribe is different from that of the note-taker. The scribe writes things in real time, on a whiteboard, computer screen, or pad-board, for the attendees to view as the meeting progresses. This can be very useful when the group is discussing an item, or drawing up plans, to keep all of the information available.

A meeting may or may not have a facilitator, and the facilitator may or may not be a member of the project team. This is a non-essential, but often very valuable role. The main role of the facilitator is to act as a neutral party in the meeting, to help the chair keep the discussion focus on the topic under discussion, and to ask questions which will open the breadth of the views on the topic being discussed. The facilitator might ask the tough questions that the team members do not want to ask, or the dumb questions that the PM doesn't want to ask, or some insightful questions that may not occur to the team members simply because they are so close to the action. Also, if the meeting chair would like to participate in some of the discussions, it is more appropriate for him to step down from the role of chair during these discussions, in order to take sides. This leaves the chair position temporarily vacant, and the facilitator is an appropriate person to fill in. As mentioned above, when there is a facilitator, it is most appropriate to have this person work with the meeting chair to plan the meeting as well. For some of these roles, it is most appropriate to have someone from outside the team as a facilitator, allowing the team members to participate in their regular roles.

Prior to the meeting the chair must also confirm that the people in these overhead roles are planning to attend the meeting, and willing to take on the specific roles. He should also clarify whether or not they need to come prepared.

Once all of this has been done, the agenda can be issued. Figure 4 shows a sample of a meeting agenda. Note that it includes all of the information that is suggested in the planning. The attendees can see all of the details regarding the administration of the meeting along with the content information.

WBS Meeting for Bluetooth Service Date: July 13th, 2003 Place: Wistonhall Time: 8:00am - 3:00pm

" Objective: to create the WBS for the Bluetooth project to develop and implement a service based on Bluetooth capabilities. • Chair: John Wayne

■ Facilitator: Carol Bush " Scribe: Emily Strauss

« Mote taker: Richard Taku










All find seats

Everyone ready



Review projcct objective




Discussion and



Project charter

Stated understanding




Project scope



Ms. Bell



Coffee and muffins

All refreshed



Groups of 5

WBS Breakdown



Separate Presentations

Eliminate overlaps % full gaps

Mrs. Sung


Meeting evaluation

Solicit individual inputs

Understanding for future

Figure 4

After every meeting there should be documentation distributed to all who attended. Unless there is confidential material in the minutes preventing it from being made more widely available, this information should also be shared with any stakeholders who would have a desire or a need to know. All meeting records should be filed with the project documentation for reference during and after the project.

In fact, looking through the preceding discussion, it is apparent that a meeting is essentially a project in itself. All of the same discipline need for project planning and implementation is required for meetings, for the same reasons.

In this Chapter we have discussed some of the forms of communication used by project teams, and some methods for managing the communications to ensure that all required information is effectively received by the appropriate recipients.

This page intentionally left blank

Chapter 9 THE PEOPLE

At the core of every project are the people. People make the project successful, people cause the project problems, people make it enjoyable to work on project teams - or otherwise. The project manager first and foremost must be able to work through the people involved to make things happen and obtain results. In this chapter we will look at many different aspects of people skills - because working with people has many different dimensions.

First we will look at the environment in which the team works. Projects exist within organizations. The organizations already have a structure, and the project work is then overlaid on that structure. We need to understand the organization structure from the project perspective in order to be aware of the types of problems that are likely to occur, and to understand where the team can capitalize on its strengths.

Leadership, a key characteristic of a successful project manager, is analyzed. Next we discuss the importance of team building for the success of the project. Another core aspect of project management is motivation. Team members must be motivated to perform at optimal levels, sometimes over extended periods of time, and often with interference from their usual departments with additional or even conflicting demands. We review some theory and some techniques in these areas. Some conflict is inevitable on a project, so conflict management is discussed. Since learning is a core concept in project management, we discuss the ways to allow learning on a project.

Before we start into the organization structures, let's consider the processes which are associated with Human Resources in the PMBOK® Guide. Figure 1 shows the processes:

Figure 1

Organization Structure for Projects

In any organization there is an existing organization structure. Traditionally companies have been organized along functional lines, but recently more companies have been moving toward an organization which is based on groups working on projects. Almost all companies have activities which are in the category of ongoing operations, where things are relatively well defined, and typically don't change significantly over time: these activities are best supported by a functionally-oriented organization. At the same time, developing anything new or making significant changes is usually best undertaken by a project-oriented team. Some degree of hybrid structure, then, is to be found in almost any company. When the organization takes on a project, they must decide how to most effectively treat the project within the structure of the company.

In all but a completely project-oriented organization, the team members continue to report to their usual supervisors. When a project is launched, the team members are moved from their usual groups to report to the Project Manager for the duration of the project.


In a purely functional structure, people are in defined positions in the hierarchy, reporting to their usual supervisor, in their normal departments. There is no project manager in this structure, so the focus on doing projects is quite low. This is usually a very inefficient structure for undertaking projects. Communication generally flows up the management paths, across and down, so the project communication can be poor, especially if there are many functional groups involved. Team members may not be cognizant of the goals and objectives, or even of the work and developments in other departments.

It's hard to imagine an organization that is more hierarchical by definition than the military. Yet the military has been instrumental in advancing the science of project management, and was indeed the source of much of the early project management software.

How does that square with the popular image of the military as a place where "you salute anything that moves and paint anything that doesn't"? The answer of course, is that they know better. The military undertakes an enormous number of projects, from the development of elaborate weapons systems, down to the details of combat operations, which are really a series of projects dealing with dangerous and rapidly changing environments.

For most peacetime projects, cross-functional teams are assembled, with the project manager appointed by the sponsoring organization. Interestingly, rank isn't a big factor in selecting the PM and running the project. Very large projects are handled in a more formal manner, with officers specializing in

The Functional Organization

Figure 2

Figure 2

2003 Subaru Outback Main Relay Location

program management running things, but even here, cross-functional direct communication is key.

Projects do occur within purely functionally organized groups, but for them to really be effective, it really helps if the PM is also the functional manager, and the majority of the work is within the functional area of responsibility of the PM.


In a purely project-driven organization all activities are projects, and all people are on project teams headed by a Project Manager, with all team members reporting to the project manager.

The project organization must exist as a subset of a larger group. Some functional groups will usually also be present for any company to operate. Usually the PM and the team members are all full time. For a project-oriented approach to succeed, it is preferable for the team members to report solely to the PM for the duration of the project.

Since in a project-oriented organization, the team reports to the PM, the communications amongst the team members are usually very good. The team understands the goals and objectives of the project because the group can collectively focus on the project. There are few non-project interruptions and it is unusual for the regular functional managers to disrupt the project direction, since they must now negotiate with the PM for the time of the people. Motivation for project activities is generally high since this is the main focus of the team and they work together towards the goals. The team generally gels well, since they report to the same supervisor.

Of course, the PM needs to use strong negotiation skills prior to the project in order to hire the strongest resources away from their normal departments.

In this environment people are removed from their functional organizations, and from the support of others in their functional area, so there is no support for someone learning a new area, or backup in the case of overload. Therefore technical quality can be lower in this environment. Removal of staff from functional organizations for long periods can result in loss of opportunity for training and career growth. If a team member requires

The Projectized Organization

training which is related to the project, there is generally no question that the project will pay for the training. But suppose that a team member wants some training that is not related to the project. If isolation from the functional department prevents this, the engineer with the best skills for this project may be reluctant to join the team because he has been working on this existing technology now for 2 years, and wants to be trained in some of the newer technologies to update his skills. The danger of becoming stale is very real for development personnel. In a project environment, the company needs to make sure that the career development needs of the team members are still met.

In addition, no matter whether the project is large or small, exciting or routine, at the end of the project, each of the team members will need to move on to something else. If there is an existing functional structure in the company, generally people move back to their previous functional department. However, this does not always happen. Sometimes the functional department has no position for the person to return to. Or the person was ready to move on, and took the project as a stepping-stone towards something else. If the person is to return to the usual department, the project completion may not be cause for anxiety due to job placement, but there could be some concern about what positions will be waiting. And if there is no functional structure in place, then project resources will need to find another position to move to. This will generally mean moving to another project. And the start date of the new project could even occur prior to the finish of the current project. So, as the project end approaches, the team members will be at least as focused on finding a new position as they will be on project completion. Also, after having worked on the higher profile project, a return to the usual day to day functions might be a let down to many team members. There might be a need for the PM to assist with this transition.

Thus, there are both pros and cons with this structure. These need to be considered by any PM working is this environment to help him to anticipate the types of problems he is liable to face, and to be prepared to deal with them.


In order to take advantage of the strengths of each of the above structures, most organizations use some form of matrix structure for their projects. In this structure the project team members continue within their own functional groups, reporting to their usual managers for purposes of career development and performance evaluation. A Project Manager, or Project Coordinator, is put in place to manage the project. The team members report on a "dotted line" to the PM as well for activities related to the project. The project manager must also have substantial input into the performance reviews of the people on the project team, as he or she is in the best position to judge the team members' performance against project goals. Thus every team member has two bosses. The team members might work full or part time on the project, As is the case in the two previous organizational structures. Because there are two 'bosses', the PM and the Functional Manager, the team members risk being overloaded by being given work by both, neither caring particularly about the goals of the other. For a matrix structure to work, there needs to be co-operation between the PM and the functional manager to avoid putting the team members in this difficult position. It is often useful, and fairly common in mature matrix organizations to formalize the responsibilities of the team member, and of the two managers, before the person is assigned to the project. Such a prior agreement makes it harder to pass the buck later if something goes wrong.

Because people continue to report to their normal supervisors while they work on the project, with the procedures, processes, support and training near at hand, their technical skills are usually up to date, as in the functional organization. The quality of work is also strong because of the availability of support and processes. Project focus is better than in the functional organization because team members are accountable to the project manager who brings the project focus, and who communicates the objectives, budget, schedule, etc with the team members. And the anxiety at the end of the project is lessened, as the team members have somewhere to call home.

The corporate culture will largely determine the relative strengths of the functional and project organizations, and their influence on the team member. There is a wide variation in the relative strengths of the project and functional groups.

Primarily in organizations in which most of their business is in ongoing operations, projects are likely to be considered of secondary importance. The project manager is more of a co-ordinator, and has very little actual authority. In this structure, the team members are accountable mainly to their functional manager, who will have a significant input to the relative importance, and the amount of support to be offered to the various ongoing projects.

Was this article helpful?

0 0
Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment