Side Notes: Project communication

Communication, it is the single most powerful tool in human existence. It has the power to kill, and the power to heal. Take time to think about that for a while. Think of all the tyrannical despots that have rallied entire countries behind them to kill, to maim, to murder, and to ultimately destroy other human beings. Equally at the same time, think of all the sufferings that have been alleviated through communication and have allowed for peace.

Project communication is vital, especially on extremely complex projects. The Scientists, Cardiologists, and Technologists that I have worked with all have their own different types of communication, normally based around their speciality. It is extremely frustrating for them to professionally communicate with those they know have no idea of what they are talking about – because it signifies that their time is being wasted. No one likes that.

A part of our job is to always learn to speak the language of our client. You would be amazed at how many Project Managers do not know that. Most would say that it is not in their job description. I would argue that it is in all of our job descriptions. Communication is complex”, but it becomes less so when you know what a scientist means by photovoltaic cell degeneration, what Cardiologist mean by myocardial infraction and what Technologist mean by leaky bucket theory.

Driven project managers – like I hope I am – make it their business to learn the client’s preferred terminology, for many reason; chiefly to be able to identify with them. Despite this, there are broader communicative skills, bordering on the metaphysical but are identified as parapsychological in nature. They involve a hidden discipline in change management known as transformative empowerment language (TEL). No need to “Google it” because it is virtually untaught, therefore non-existent.

There is so much to write on this subject, because most of it comes from “The Science of Planning” presentation (more on that later). However, jumping ahead, TEL is useful because it transform mental states on projects. It uses a whole complex range of communication skills to drive the project towards a successful conclusion (metaphors, tone, and wider usage of empowering adjectives). So for example, when you come into work every day – most people ask, “How are you doing today?” The common reply is, “I’m fine” or “I’m okay”. Normally translated to “same old, same old”, “nothing’s changed”.

When I arrive early in the mornings and the team comes in and they ask me how I am? I normally reply, “I am on fire” and smile – when everything is under control, that is. When I am worried, I normally say, “I am in a contemplative mood” rather than, “I am worried …”. When someone has not done what I have asked them to do, I say, “Hey G, can you come and help me with this?”, rather than say, “This is not what I asked for, can you come to my office”. Language is everything on complex and any other type of project. Project managers must empower and be aware of how their communication is being perceived. The language I use on my projects is transformative, designed to positively empower my teams. It does not mean that I do not really feel this way. It means that I have an empowerment language in my project management toolkit to push out incredible results. This is not unique!

Football, basketball, tennis and cricket coaches have been using these same language techniques for many years now. Skilled project managers with advanced communication skills cannot be found because those advanced communication skills are not recognised in any mainstream project management education of today. Primarily because their importance and power have been subsumed by the “get rich quick”,and “show a profit now” mentality in modern business. The problem with this mentality is that it gives rise to the current failing projects epidemic we have and are still facing. I transformed the language on this GSM telecommunication portal project to get incredible results.

When project managers use transformative empowerment language, they not only change their own mental states but those of the teams. When this happens, all stakeholders give their very best effort – and gone is the need to drag in the baggage of their home life or anything other that could damage the project. Like an orchestra conductor, it is my job to ensure that my teams are mentally fit to play their instruments; that they understand my non-verbal instructions, and that they are mentally wired to give their best performance. I can hear many project managers saying that all of this is completely impossible – well that is what I do, the impossible.


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