Recently, one of my facebook friends posted a status update that was funny, but made me think. She said that, “Often, misunderstandings arise for one of three reasons: not enough love, not enough sleep, or not enough chocolate.” While chocolate does solve a lot of issues – at least short-term issues – for many people, so does coffee…so I think you could insert the dark beverage in there and make it work just as well.
As for project management, I’m not so sure project misunderstandings come from not enough love…. maybe not enough sleep, but love? No. I like my teams and my customers, but no love gained or lost thankfully. I would like to present what I consider to be three top reasons for project misunderstandings.
1. The project manager is a poor communicator.
I’ve always said that project communication is Job One for the project manager. If the project leader is a poor communicator, then the project team, customer and other key stakeholders are very likely to experience some misunderstandings. Minor misunderstandings are easily correctible – like who is assigned to a particular task or what time the next project meeting will be. Major misunderstandings can be catastrophic – like finding out your tech lead is going on vacation during a critical milestone date when you thought they were going on vacation next month. Communication is talking and listening. I obviously missed something somewhere.
2. Meetings are not happening regularly.
When meetings become irregular, communication can become disjointed and you end up with not having everyone on the same page at the same time. Even if very little is happening on the project, still have a 10-minute meeting. It keeps the cohesiveness of the team going and ensures that no small amounts of information fall through the cracks.
3. Requirements have been ill-defined.
Requirements are the lifeblood of the project. They are the basis for all the work you do. If requirements aren’t correct, then the solution won’t be correct, the end users won’t be happy, the project sponsor will be dissatisfied and you’ll be at fault – no matter who is really at fault. Get requirements documented correctly, accurately, in detail and signed off and approved by the project customer before starting project design and development work.
Re-work is extremely costly in many ways and eats up very valuable project schedule time in the process. Avoid this at all cost. Signed off requirements can still be changed - via a change order that provides the project with more revenue and time… meaning you won’t miss the overall project schedule and budget and it won’t be your fault as the project manager. Requirements are critical - make sure your project gets started on the right foot with good, detailed and accurate requirements.