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Ideas, suggestions and general thoughts about project management for development.

Project Management for Development

Improve your management skills with these seven communication Tips

One of the biggest factors for low performance of project managers is poor communication skills. Project managers are too often are promoted for their technical accomplishments, without any assessment of their communication skills. If the project manager is not a good communicator, then he or she shouldn’t be a project manager. Otherwise, the organization increases the risks to the project and increases the work that senior supervisors need to do in order fill in for this gap. Essentially, communication means transferring ideas, but communication is more than speaking, the spoken words are only 7% of communication and that body language, facial expressions, tonality, and style constitute the rest of the 93%. To be a good communicator is not difficult but requires practice and good coaching, here are some basic tips that will help any project manager improve these skills:

 

1. Listen, listen, and listen. Spend time to learn to listen, hear what your staff and stakeholders are saying before sending any communications, listening will give opportunities for clues about what the intended audience is prepared to hear from the project. Communication is a two-way street, so it is important to listen carefully when the team members, beneficiaries or other key stakeholders are speaking

2. Ask questions and ask for questions –When hearing something that it is not clear then people should ask about it. It is important that everyone understands exactly the message.. Equally important is to let a team member asks questions to clarify a point and it should be answered in a timely manner. The team member may be bringing up a crucial detail that could make or break the project’s plans.

3. Don’t delay key messages. Make the effort to ensure that those who should know about any project changes know about it as soon as possible. Not sending the communication to the right people at the right time may result in work may not get done; or worst, work done in an area that has been cancelled.

4. Be consistent on your key messages. Nothing confuses more than sending inconsistent messages about the project. If one communication tells a message that the project is on track but another tells there are delays, the project manager will be seen as not having a clue on what is going on and that deteriorates the image of the project. Revise the communication for inconsistencies before sending the to their intended audiences

5. Know your audience.It is a great mistake to assume that one message can fit all the project audiences. The project lives in an environment that is made up of people from different backgrounds and levels of understanding about the project. Even cultural differences call for a need to customize the communication. Make an effort to communicate by expressing the message from the point of view of the audience.6. Make the message simple, concise and to the point. Nothing breaks downs communications than sending long and complex messages. Long speeches or long documents filled with information that is not relevant will cause the audience to lose its focus and concentration on the message. Make sure that your message is easy to read, calls for action or informs without using a lot of explanations.

7. Pay attention to nonverbal communications. As much as 93 percent of the meaning transmitted between two people in face-to-face communication is nonverbal. Nonverbal communications include gestures, body language, facial expressions and eye contact. Project managers need to take in account their nonverbal cues when communication verbally, ensuring a good posture, good eye contact and the right tone of voice is used that do not contradict the words that are being spoken.

Remember, one of the best things you can do to improve your communication skills is to learn to really listen; to pay attention and let the other person talk without interrupting. It may seem difficult at the beginning and will require hard work to keep the concentration, but you might be amazed at the end result.

 
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Project Participation

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Participation in project management is a process that allows sharing some of the control on the project with key stakeholders, especially beneficiaries. By giving beneficiaries the opportunity to participate in the decision making elements of project management helps build a sense of ownership on the outcomes of the project.

Ownership of the project outcomes ensures the support and active involvement of stakeholders. When stakeholders know their voices, opinions and preferences are heard, they know the project is meeting their needs. Participation should not be limited to baseline interviews and occasional communication meetings but should be included in all the project phases; from the design, planning, implementation, monitoring, adaptation and closing/evaluation of the project.

Participation is also a political act in which beneficiaries are empowered to have their voices heard and that simple fact changes the power relationships between the project and the stakeholders. Participation is also strategic to the needs of the project as it increases the impact of the project and increases its sustainability beyond the end of the project. But participation is not cheap, requires the use of resources and time, but the benefits of this investment are recovered by the long term impact.

The principle behind participation is that stakeholders are collaborators in the project, not just simple recipients or contributors, but active partners in the project at every phase of the project. All participation approaches are designed to generate an active participation including making key decisions on the project that have a direct influence on the stakeholders and most important they can even help challenge some of the original assumptions the project had about the stakeholders and that can have a significant input in the project design and strategies.

Project managers must built-in participation in the project planning phase, and choose when, what, why, and who will participate; taking in consideration that asking too much participation can also have a negative effect, after all stakeholders have other priorities and activities that the project is competing with. The project manager must be conscious of the time availability and effort needed from stakeholders. Project stakeholders vary and their level of participation also varies depending on who they are and what are their stakes in the project, the project should identify all project stakeholders and evaluate the level of participation needed from each, when the participation is needed, and why the participation will increase the impact of the project. This simple analysis help focus the project resources on the areas that will bring the most benefit.

 

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