The Key to Construction Project Management: Communication

By Claire Tulloch, Project Manager, North Texas Office

Communication is the key to construction project management. Have you ever walked out of a meeting and had a follow up discussion with another participant, only to feel like you attended two different meetings? Communication sounds simple, yet “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” -George Bernard Shaw

What the sender says or writes, what they are intending the message to be and how the receiver interprets the information, can all be very different.

Listen & Learn

A big part of communication is listening for understanding. Learning what your client’s goals are, what their priorities are, and how they intend to achieve those goals is central to our role as program and project managers. One of the most exciting things we do is make our clients goals a reality. We become translators between the owner’s goals and specifics for implementation.

We work to listen to a client’s needs and ensure that the intent gets relayed into details with each of the stakeholders. There can be a lot of information lost in translation, for example, between a general contractor’s site superintendent and the teachers utilizing a classroom space during construction. Understanding the core of what our stakeholders are saying and interpreting it to get things right is what makes our jobs so vital to the project process.

Customization

Each client is unique, and each of their individual projects is distinct. There are always a variety of stakeholders on each project and they are not all created equal. Learning who they are, roles, interests and power over project elements ensures their information is received or given in the appropriate context and for the appropriate part of the project.

There are Project Management, Construction Management and Professional Services standards that we adhere to, however what makes our jobs so critical and interesting are the differences that exist with each client. Our project tools include templates, standards and procedures as starting points, but customizing those tools based on the unique needs of each client sets the stage for impactful custom solutions.

Information reporting is also key. Different types of information needs to be delivered to different individuals, organizations and stakeholders at different times. Being flexible and tailoring reporting to different audiences with varying levels of detail and frequency is critical. We work with our clients to understand the needs of different audiences to establish client specific reports and procedures that provide concise, valuable information in a timely manner.

It is important to distinguish how much information is useful, the right level of detail to provide without being overwhelming and the best format to deliver the information. Being concise, clear and having complete information is important no matter the level of detail.

Knowing the difference

When to listen, when to talk, when to hold back, when to ask questions and when to explain – these nuances are what make the art of communication so fascinating. Nonverbal communication – reading the room (physical or digital), reading the situation and reading your audience, can help you tailor your approach in using the right tone and the right type of communication. When to pick up the phone, when an email record is appropriate and when a face to face discussion is warranted, can have a significant impact on how the information is received.

We have an important role in keeping information moving and delivering the right information to the right individuals or groups at the right time. This keeps projects moving during programming, design, construction or even project close out. Effective information management can mean the difference between keeping a project moving or causing frustrating delays. Communication is the key to construction project management – and makes or breaks a project and we, as project managers, can serve as either a project block or an appropriate funnel. Our job is to deliver value to our clients by facilitating the optimal flow of information.