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Communication Breakdown – by Peter Taylor

Working for a Japanese company I assumed the project management role some four months in to the project, there was another project manager before me, a colleague, who had decided to ‘move on’(I will make no comment…).

Being a diligent and conscientious project manager I sat down with the team and reviewed the plan and the schedule, looked at progress to date and assessed the overall situation.
It became rapidly clear that the project was going to be late, and instead of a ‘go live’ date of 1st February it was more likely that a ‘go live’ date of 1st May was achievable.

Anticipating the discussion I was going to have to have with the customer’s project manager first, and then the steering committee later, I dutifully researched and documented the reasons behind the slippage of three months.

In all honesty, they were 95% down to the customer. What my predecessor had failed to do was to communicate these slippages in an appropriate way. I could find all the causes and consequences buried deep down in the copious project status reports (each one an average of 12 pages long!) but none of this had risen to the surface at recent project meetings or steering meetings and therefore this was all going to be a bit of a shock.

So, fully prepared for my meeting later with the customer, I needed to head off to see another customer just down the road. As I left I commented to my technical architect that I was off, would be back 3pm, and ‘would give the bad news then’.

I left. I returned.

The first person I met on my return was my technical architect who cheerfully informed me that he had met the customer project manager at the coffee machine earlier and gave him the news.

And the result?

Well I had a tough meeting, and I never got the opportunity to present the facts of the situation and build up to the consequences in a proper manner. I was on the back foot from the moment I walked in the door and never recovered. I was also replaced on the project in a few weeks and the third project manager assumed control and delivered the project (on the 1st May by the way).

Our sins: We had failed to communicate from the start of the project in an appropriate way, and when there was bad news we communicated in an inappropriate and casual manner without control or consideration. My failure was that I did not communicate well enough to my project team what I intended to do and why I wanted to do it this way, nor the potential consequences of not being able to do it this way.

[ribbon]Author Bio: Peter Taylor[/ribbon]
Speaker | Author | Trainer | Coach | Consultant

Peter is a dynamic and commercially astute professional who has achieved notable success in business.

His background is in project management and marketing across three major business areas over the last 28 years and with the last 8 years building and leading PMOs.

He is an accomplished communicator, a professional speaker, workshop trainer and PM/PMO consultant.

Peter is the author of ‘The Lazy Project Manager’, The Lazy Winner’ and ‘The Lazy Project Manager and the Project from Hell’ (Infinite Ideas), as well as ‘Leading Successful PMOs’ (Gower).

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