The importance of communication in project work

As social beings, we can barely survive on our own. It is therefore essential that we interact with others and convey messages to them. Communication, derived from the Latin word "communicare", is the exchange of information between a sender and one or more receivers, or between two or more people. Anyone can be both sender and receiver. We communicate to present things, to express things and to get reactions. Communication is used to exchange factual information as well as to maintain emotional equilibrium and is therefore an important social bonding agent.

There are different forms of communication, with or without technical aids. There are also different systems of communication, such as the use of written signs or spoken language. Each of these forms offers a variety of ways of conveying information and thereby influencing the interpretation or understanding of the content. It can also be important whether the participants can only hear each other or also see each other in order to correctly classify the information. In situations where we are composing a concise message in a short message application, it is necessary to make a different selection of information than in a detailed conversation. Unlike written communication, oral communication can change the meaning of a message through nuances of emphasis or variations in volume.
A neon sign in the form of a speech bubble with the word "hello" written on it.


Communicative possibilities for action

Human communication is multifaceted and involves different channels and media. We use language (both spoken and written), body language (facial expressions, gestures), pitch, speech rhythm and eye contact to communicate with each other. We can communicate both with and without technical aids or media such as television, the internet and social networks.

There are different types of communication that allow us to interact in different ways. Self-communication, also known as intrapersonal communication, refers to the conscious expressions that people make to themselves. It can be used, for example, to clarify thoughts and reduce stress by going through certain steps in a job.

Communication between people, or interpersonal communication, is of greater importance. Here, for example, the project manager explains the task to the project team, which creates a basis for working on the project. By asking questions and answering open questions, a flow of communication is created that allows information to be exchanged.

Communication between one or more people can take different forms and enable different types of information exchange. One example is "one-to-one" communication, where one person interacts with another person and establishes a direct connection. This involves a direct exchange of information and ideas. "One-to-many" communication is when one person communicates with many other people. This can be the case, for example, when a manager sends a message to the team or a leader gives a speech to a large audience. In this form of communication, information is transmitted from one source to a large number of recipients. "Many-to-many" communication involves the interaction and exchange of information between many people. Several people can be actively involved in the communication, creating a dynamic dialogue. This can take place in different contexts, such as group discussions or conferences.
In project work, this can look like the following:
  • Example "one-to-one": the project worker seeks additional information from the project manager in order to achieve a better work result.
  • Example "one-to-many": The project manager reports on the project status to the members of the steering committee. 
  • Example "many-to-many": The sub-project leaders present the status of their sub-projects to the project manager and the members of the steering committee.

Communication within groups

In project work, communication within a group requires both spontaneous and organised interactions. An example of spontaneous communication is the occurrence of a crisis situation that requires an immediate reaction from a project member to limit possible damage. In such situations, rapid and ad hoc communication within the team is crucial to finding solutions together and acting appropriately.

On the other hand, there are also organised forms of communication within the group. For example, a milestone date is often known well in advance, allowing those involved to organise the relevant review early on. This provides an opportunity for thorough preparation, gathering of relevant information and structured exchange.

Another aspect of group communication is the choice of medium. In today's world, where more and more people work remotely or in hybrid arrangements, digital media is becoming an important communication tool. Project members can use video conferencing systems to meet and communicate online. This virtual form of communication allows team members to meet and exchange ideas despite physical distance.

However, offline communication within a physical work environment can also be important. An example of this is when the project manager runs a workshop in the meeting room and then summarises the results in handwritten minutes. Copies of the minutes are distributed to the workshop participants. In such scenarios, direct face-to-face interaction enables immediate communication and exchange of ideas.

Simultaneous or time-shifted communication

In project work, it often happens that a project team decides on the next steps in a joint meeting. At such times, communication is simultaneous and synchronised. Team members are physically or virtually present to share ideas, make decisions and discuss the progress of the project. This simultaneous communication allows important information to be shared in real time and immediate feedback to be received. Synchronicity allows team members to pull together and resolve any issues or problems that arise directly.

However, there may be situations where an employee cannot attend the joint meeting due to commitments such as a supplier visit. To ensure that they still receive the relevant information, the results of the meeting are left as an answering machine message or emailed as minutes. This form of communication is asynchronous and time-shifted. The employee has the option to retrieve the recorded message at a later time and capture the information it contains. This type of communication allows the employee to stay informed and react, if necessary, even if they were not present at the meeting.

Mass communication

Another type of communication is mass communication through the media. An example of this is when the project manager regularly posts information on the project website to keep everyone informed. This is an effective and efficient way of disseminating relevant information to a wide audience. The project website acts as a central hub through which participants can access the latest updates, progress and decisions. This mass communication approach facilitates communication and collaboration between team members and ensures transparent distribution of information, which contributes to the smooth running of the project.

Final words

Communication plays a crucial role in project work as it enables the exchange of information, ideas and feedback between project participants. The variety of forms and means of communication provides the opportunity to respond to different needs and situations. Whether it is face-to-face meetings, written messages, virtual meetings or the dissemination of information via a project website, choosing the appropriate communication channel is crucial to ensure effective and efficient collaboration.

The way we communicate has a significant impact on the understanding, collaboration and success of a project. Therefore, it is important to convey clear and concise messages, provide feedback and foster an open and transparent communication climate. Selecting the appropriate communication medium, taking into account the needs of all project participants and adapting it to the situation are crucial factors for successful project work.

Communication in project work - The Author
Author: Dr. Roland Ottmann
Keywords: Project management, Communication

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For better readability, we usually only use the generic masculine form in our texts. Nevertheless, the expressions refer to members of all genders.