Communications Management: PMP Study Guide (PMBOK 6th Edition)

communications management pmp study guide

Project Communications Management is the process of planning, collecting, storing, and updating project information. This article is part of a PMP Study Guide that summarizes the Communications Management Knowledge Area.

The Communications Management knowledge area that a project manager spends the most time on. In fact, over 90% of the project manager’s time is spent on communications.

In this article, we will cover the key terms and three processes in the Communications Management Knowledge Area.

Key Terms

Stakeholder The project manager need to be the expert in project management, and the stakeholders are the technical experts in what needs to be done and how it need to be done. The project manager is the orchestra leader, and the work cannot be done well without stakeholder involvement
Kick-off meeting
  • Get team members to know each other
  • Establish working relationships and lines of communication
  • Set team goals and objectives
  • Review project plans
  • Identify problem areas
  •  Establish individual and group responsibilities
  • Obtain individual and group commitments
Barriers to communication
  • No channels – lack of clear communication channels
  • Distance – physical or temporal distance between the communicator and receiver
  • Difficulties with technical language – the presence of communication barriers may lead to increased conflict
  • Noise – distracting environmental factors; not paying attention
  • Detrimental attitudes – hostile attitudes are communication blockers. All communication blockers are noise, but not all noise are communication blockers
Communication role of PM
  • PM’s spend about 80 – 90% of their time acquiring and communicating information
  • PM is key to all project communications and must be skilled at communicating with top management, customer, project team, competing project teams (peers)
  • PM serves as focal point for ensuring real, two-way communication between the project team and customer
  • PM’s communications covers all facets: laterally, vertically and diagonally through an organization and across
Building effective team communications
  • Be an effective communicator
  • Be a communications expeditor – initiate relationships
  • Avoid communication blockers (i.e. negative response that kill or inhibit)
  • Innovative ideas
  • Use a tight matrix – collocation of project team is best communication for the team
  • Have a project war room
  • Make meetings effective
  • Establish a meeting policy
  • Only call a meeting when there is a real need
  • Make the purpose of the meeting very clear
  • Prepare an agenda
  • Encourage participation
  • Issue minutes
  • Follow up on all tasks and action items
General management skills
  • Leading
  • Communicating
    • Establishing direction; motivating
    • Exchange of info – written/oral; formal/informal; vertical/horizontal
  • Negotiating
  • Problem solving
    • Conferring with others to reach an agreement
    • Combination of problem definition and decision making
  • Influencing organization
    • Ability to get things done
Organization structure and communication
  • 3 types of organizations: functional, projectized, matrix
  • Communication and information flows are thought to be the most complex in the matrix environment
  • Best positive communications – free flow of information

Plan Communications Management  

Plan Communications Management is the process of developing communications plans and processes based on the existing procedures and stakeholder’s needs. The main output of this process is the Communications Management Plan.

Communication requirements analysis determines the information needs of the project stakeholders

Sources of information used to identify communication requirements:

  • Organizational charts
  • Stakeholder register
  • Project charter
  • Project documents

Communication technology and factors that affect it:

  • Urgency of the need for information
  • Availability of technology
  • Ease of use
  • Project environment
  • Sensitivity and confidentiality of the information

Communication model:

Communication models are framed around three parts:

  • Sender
  • Messenger
  • Receiver

Effective communications

The sender should encode a message, determine which communication method to use, and confirm that the message is understood. When encoding the message, the sender needs to be aware of the following communication factors:

  • Non-verbal – about 55% of all communication is non-verbal
  • Paralingual – pitch and tone of voice also help to convey a message

Communication methods

These methods can be grouped into the following categories:

  • Interactive communications
    • The method is reciprocal and can involve just two people or many people
    • Examples include conversations, meetings, and conference calls
  • Push communications
    • This method involves a one-way stream of information
    • The sender provides the information to the people who need it but does not expect feedback on the communication
    • Examples include status reports and email updates
  • Pull communications
    • The project manager places the information in a central location. The recipients are then responsible for retrieving or “pulling” the information from the location
Communication type When used
Formal written Complex problems, project management plan , project charter , communicating over long distances
Formal verbal Presentations , speeches
Informal written E-mail, handwritten notes, text messages, instant Messages
Informal verbal Meetings, conversations

 

Manage Communications

Manage Communications is the process of creating, collecting, distributing, and updating project information according to the Communications Management Plan. This process happens during the Executing process group.

The key benefit of this process is that it enables efficient communications between project team members and stakeholders.

Communication methods

  • Face-to-face (most effective), meetings, video and audio conferences, email, instant messaging, etc.

Techniques and considerations for effective communications

  • Sender-receiver models
  • Choice of media
  • Writing style
  • Meeting management techniques
  • Presentation techniques
  • Facilitation techniques
  • Listening techniques

Performance reporting

  • Includes collecting and distributing project performance information
  • Includes status reports, progress reports and forecasts
  • Remember that reports are backward-looking, not forward-looking tools

Project communications components include:

  • Performance reports,
  • Deliverables status,
  • Schedule progress
  • Cost incurred

Communication Channels = [n*(n-1)]/2, where n = number of people

PM Expectations

  • Stakeholders’ need must continue to be met and their issues resolved throughout the project
  • Make stakeholders feel that their needs and concerns are being considered
  • Keeping open communication channels with the stakeholders is key so they can inform the project manager of potential changes, added risks, and other information

Monitor Communications

Monitor Communications is the process of analyzing communications through the project life cycle and sending relevant work performance information to stakeholders.

Communication blockers include things such as:

  • Noisy surroundings
  • Distance between those trying to communicate
  • Improper encoding of messages
  • Making negative statements
  • Hostility
  • Language barriers
  • Culture barriers

There are different types of performance reports:

  • Status report – this report describes where the project now stands regarding the performance measurement baseline
  • Progress report – describes what has been accomplished
  • Trend report – examines project results over time to see if performance is improving or deteriorating
  • Forecasting report – predicts future project status
  • Variance report – compares actual results to baselines
  • Earned value report – integrates scope, cost, and schedule measures to assess project performance, using the terms described in Cost Management section
  • Lessons learned documentation – reports on performance are used as lessons learned for future projects


Things to understand:

  • Reports should provide the kinds of information and the level of detail required by stakeholder
  • Reports should be designed for the needs of the project
  • The best way to have a report read and acted on is to use the most appropriate communication method in sending it
  • You should not spend all time reporting. Remember that many reports are just about the past. Finding information about the past means it is too late to prevent the problem. You need to keep managing the project, rather than just reporting on it, to make a project successful
  • Report should include measurements against the performance measurement baseline set in the project management plan. Remember that you should have performance measurement baseline (the combined scope, schedule, and cost baselines) that can be measured. Those measurements are an indication of how successful you are as a project manager
  • Reports must be truthful and not hide what is really going on

Things to Remember

  • Identify ALL stakeholders
    • Any stakeholders who are missed will likely be found later. When they are uncovered, they will make changes and could cause delays. Changes made later in the project are much more costly and harder to integrate than those made earlier.
    • A list of stakeholders is included in the stakeholder register
    • Stakeholders are first identified as part of initiating the project, and this list is reassessed during project execution
  • Determine ALL of their requirements
    • The project manager must make every effort to obtain ALL the requirements before work begins
    • There are many ways to make sure you have all requirements – from just asking if you do, to conducting requirement reviews, to telling people the negative consequences to the organization and the project if requirements are found later
    • The requirements should not just relate to how stakeholders want the product of the project to function, but should also include their communications requirements
  • Determine their expectations
    • These are what the stakeholders expect to happen to them, and their department, and company as a whole. They tend to be much more ambiguous than stated requirements, or they may be undefined requirements. They may be intentionally or unintentionally hidden
    • Naturally, expectations that go unidentified will have major impacts across all constraints
    • Expectations are converted to requirements and become part of the project
  • Determine their interest
    • Stakeholders may be particularly interested in working on some part of the project, getting a chance to learn new skills, getting a chance to prove their skills, or even getting out of working on certain parts of the project
    • A great project manager, will determine each stakeholder’s interest related to the project and attempt to either build them into the project or implement them as reward
  • Determine their level of influence
    • To some degree, each stakeholder will be able to negatively or positively affect a project. This is their level of influence, and it should be identified and managed
  • Plan how you will communicate with them
    • Project management focuses on planning before taking action. Since communications are the most frequent cause of problems on projects, planning communications is critical
  • Communicate with them
    • Stakeholders are included in project presentations are receive project information, including progress reports, updates, changes to the project management plan, and maybe even changes to the project documents
  • Manage their expectations and influence
    • Managing stakeholder doesn’t end during initiating. They must be managed throughout the life of the project

Before you go…

Lastly, don’t forget to check out the other study notes in this series and download our free 200 practice questions by clicking the links below:

Integration Management – PMP Study Guide

Scope Management – PMP Study Guide

Time Management – PMP Study Guide

Cost Management – PMP Study Guide

Quality Management – PMP Study Guide

HR Management – PMP Study Guide

Communications Management – PMP Study Guide

Risk Management – PMP Study Guide

Procurement Management – PMP Study Guide

Stakeholder Management – PMP Study Guide