V IE WPOIN TS
Getting results as a project manager is often a matter of relaying the right message.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
BY LYNDA BOURNE, DPM, PMP
There is no point in communicating with someone if you don’t want to cause an effect. The effect you are seeking can vary dramati- cally; you may want the person to do something,
stop doing something, feel happier or more supportive, or
even feel worried or concerned. The starting point in any
effective communication is developing a clear picture of what it is
you want the communication to
For example, most project
reports are intended to keep people informed and supportive. An
elegant, stylish and easy-to-read
report generates a positive emotional reaction. Stakeholders feel that the report’s creator
is in control. Conversely, a scruffy-looking report suggests
that its creator lacks control or concern, and the message
fails to achieve your objective.
>When advising upward to senior managers, link the requested action to the expected project outcomes and organizational value.
3. The communication should define what benefit the
receiver can expect. The concept of mutuality means that
you have a far better chance of getting what you want if
there’s something of value in it for the receiver as well. A
person’s natural reaction when presented with a demand is
to think, What’s in it for me?
Whether the medium is formal or casual, if the communication is to be effective, three key elements need to be
Mutuality does not mean changing contract conditions
or offering unethical inducements; rather it is a process of
connecting your needs and requirements to an objective
or benefit that is of value to the receiver. Within a project
team, this may be directly aligned with motivational initiatives such as recognition, autonomy or advancement.
When advising upward to senior managers, link the
requested action to the expected project outcomes and
1. Form an unambiguous statement of precisely what it
is you want the receiver to do or change. The information needs to follow the acronym SMART:
2. Demonstrate the reason why the communication is
important. Telling your sponsor you need more money
is unlikely to be well received. Drafting an argument that
shows precisely why that money is needed to keep the
project on schedule is more likely to get a positive reaction.
Getting What You Want
Communication for effect is a subtle art. You need clarity in your objectives. If you don’t know what you want,
you are unlikely to get it. You also need to understand the
receiver’s value proposition—how they will benefit. You
then need to connect the two in a way that is most likely
to achieve the outcome you desire. PM
Lynda Bourne, DPM, PMP, is the manag-
ing director of Stakeholder Management pty
Ltd. and director of training at Mosaic Proj-
ect Services pty Ltd., both in Australia. Dr.
Bourne graduated from RMIT as the first
professional doctor of project management.