Effective Project Communications

With Project Definition, Structure, and Teams covered, Dawie Steenkamp (our guest writer and PM extraordinaire) will focus the next few articles on Effective Communication within Project Teams.


Communication is “a social process that involves the social exchange of symbols or behaviors (translatable into symbols) between two or more people” (Sullivan & Short, 2011, p. 471). Since the focus of this article is on project teams, it will be appropriate to narrow down the scope and focus on communication as it is observed in a group context. Beebe and Masterson (2012, p. 3) define small group communication as “communication among a small group of people who share a common purpose, who feel a sense of belonging to the group, and who exert influence on one another”. Paul Glen (2003, p. 35) provides insight when he describes effective communication as a process “when a thought of one person is translated into words, expressed, heard, and translated back into an identical thought in the mind of another”.

Communication in general is an indispensable aspect of teamwork, but effective communication translates to high performance and achieving goals. In the past, communication research has focused on goals, individual roles, and group norms. In more recent years, there has been an increased awareness that not all groups develop to the level of effective functioning prescribed in group development theories, and that perhaps most groups never reach those desired levels. Effective communication is one of the indicators of a cohesive team and is essential for project success; in fact, 95 percent of project problems are related to poor project communication. Pentland (2012) confirms this observation in his research by presenting data showing that established patterns of communication is the single most important thing to measure when gauging the effectiveness of a team. Communication Theories, Factors, Skills, and Roles will be discussed in the next few articles.

Dawie Steenkamp, PhD, PMP.


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