Join Doug Rose for an in-depth discussion in this video Using informal communication, part of Project Management Foundations: Communication.
Most of discussion around project communication is about formal communication. You can find plenty of books on improving your business writing or presentation skills, but the majority of communication on your project will be informal communication. Informal communication is by design less formal, so people are less inhibited. It's usually in these informal breakout sections that project managers receive most information about how their project will fit into the overall program. As a project manager, you want to make sure that you can harness the power of informal, verbal communication.
That way you can always be sure you are getting the latest, good information. Informal communication is delivered in two ways. There is informal written communication and informal verbal communication. Informal communication is usually anything that is not formal communication. A good way to think about informal communication is that it's all your communication that is not prepared. In today's project you will mostly receive informal messages as Email. It's informal because it will arrive in a non-standard format and is usually casually written.
A classic informal message will be Notice, something like, "There is cake in the kitchen," or "The ten a.m. meeting is cancelled." A project manager will often receive dozens or hundreds of these email messages each day. These are short, informal bits of information. It's almost as if someone is tapping you on your shoulder. In many ways, short, informal, written communication is how you interact with your organization and team, but you'll also have a lot of informal, verbal communication.
Although it's not as prepared as Email, informal, verbal communication will still take up a good chunk of your day. These are usually short, cubical-side chats or discussions that you have after a formal meeting. This communication is always unprepared in usually two-way. Informal, verbal communication is almost always a follow-up or clarification. Like formal communication, informal communication comes with several assumptions. The fact that the communication is informal often means that it is easier to ask questions.
You're not worried about interrupting the presenter. This is a real strength of informal communication. It's usually much easier to get unfiltered information that you need. Sometimes the presenter will say something that is incorrect in a formal presentation. It's unusual to correct the presenter during their presentation, so most of that will be clarified with a small meeting after the formal event. When I was a project manager working on a large project, every month the program manager would have a slide presentation of how each project fit into the portfolio.
The meeting was a formal, verbal presentation. The program manager would prepare their remarks and deliver them to several project managers. Because it was a large audience, you would never have any questions. Instead, each project manager would break up into smaller, informal verbal meetings to clarify the parts of the presentation. Some project managers will do this by sitting close to their team, where they can easily see when someone else is available they can grab them for a quick chat. Other project managers will do something called MBWA, and that's an acronym for Management By Walking Around.
These project managers walk around and encourage team members to have spontaneous, verbal chats. Project managers know that by having these chats, they can fill in some of the gaps you get from formal reports and presentations. Another thing project managers might want to do is make sure that they are accessible for informal chats with stakeholders. Often, you can get a sense of where a project is going by having an informal chat with your executive stakeholder. They will tell you information informally that they probably wouldn't share in a formal document.
This information can help you prepare for bad outcomes. Finally, you want to make sure you are friendly. This is a common theme throughout all communication challenges. If your team or your stakeholders see you as unfriendly, they will be less likely to have these informal chats. It would be a mistake to think that you can just get by with formal communication. If you skip these two-way chats and overly depend on Email reports, you'll always be partly in the dark.
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- Using formal and informal means to communicate
- Prioritizing stakeholder needs
- Listening actively
- Planning project communication
- Understanding leadership language
- Writing clear and concise project reports
- Learning how and when to say "no"<br><br>
- The PMI Registered Education Provider logo is a registered mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.