V IE WPOIN TS
LOST IN TRANSLATION
Avoiding jargon and providing realistic data can be the key to effective communication.
BY LYNDA BOURNE, DPM, PMP
From earned value management to work break- down structures, project management is rife with terms specific to the profession. However, while these terms are familiar to trained project managers worldwide, there’s a good chance they’re completely
unknown to managers trained in organizations and societies
that have different approaches to doing business.
As such, it’s not surprising that misunderstandings and
confusion among stakeholders can easily arise. (In fact,
stakeholders might not even be aware that they are being
The general business community frequently uses the
same words in a similar context but applies completely different meanings. Project managers say one thing, and others
understand something else completely.
Add in a few TLAs (that is, three-letter acronyms) and
total misunderstanding can ensue. When you mention
the threats and opportunities in the RBS, you’re obviously
thinking of the risk breakdown structure—but your stakeholder may be wondering why the Royal Bank of Scotland
is suddenly involved in the project.
Because one of the keys to project success is managing
stakeholder expectations, this is a major risk. Good communication requires feedback. You must be sure the recipients fully understand what information you’re conveying,
including all of the message’s nuances.
>>Unnecessary detail and pseudo-
accuracy should be removed.
Instead, simplify information and
frame it in realistic terms.
ASIA PACIFIC WATCH
Most project managers who are accustomed to dealing with
stakeholders from other parts of the business, other organizations or other cultures understand these issues. They
will carefully construct all of their communications and test
for understanding. But even this level of care may not be
enough. They must ensure that the information itself does
not create false expectations. This is particularly important
when preparing time and cost estimates.
In many parts of Asia, managers will not provide a
precise estimate unless they are absolutely certain they can
achieve exactly what’s promised.
However, as project managers, we routinely use schedul-
ing tools that calculate very specific estimates. They’ll predict
that a task will be complete at, say, 3: 30 p.m. on Tuesday
in four months, simply because this is the output from the
approximations entered into the schedule. Or that the total
cost of the project will be AU$10,986,547.55, because the
estimating system churned out that summary total.
Lynda Bourne, DPM, PMP, is the managing director of
Stakeholder Management pty Ltd. and director of training
at Mosaic Project Services pty Ltd., both in
Australia. Dr. Bourne graduated from the
Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology
as the first professional doctor of project
management. She is president of the PMI