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Project Management (a quick tutorial) - Project Communications

Project Communications

80% of all problems stem from poor communication
67% of all statistics are made up on the spot, including this one

Project management requires the consistent communication of ideas, visions, plans, strategies and decisions.  Efficient and effective communication is central to all project activities.  Without open, honest, and direct communication the project team will be handicapped and constrained.  If your ideas, visions, plan, strategies, decisions are not clear, your team will make sub-optimal decisions and your project will not succeed, your stakeholders will not get what they need or require.  And eventually

Communication Plan

Communication is one of the major project manager responsibilities.  Keep everyone informed and focused on the most critical tasks.  Develop a plan for project communications:

  1. How often do I communicate
  2. To whom
  3. Why?


Stakeholder Compass

When you view your communication responsibility it is useful to think of the stakeholder compass. 


Your project needs to satisfy the following stakeholder groups:

  1. The client
  2. Your company management
  3. The project team
  4. External stakeholders, i.e. the public 

Each of these groups needs to be kept informed.  The type of communication and frequency is determined based on the project needs and the needs of each stakeholder group.  As an example the client is interested in project schedule, project quality and budget.  Your company management shares the same interest; however they are also interested in the cost of project prosecution and minimizing company financial risk.  Your team is interested in project leadership, clear management and the removal of constraints. 

You should include yourself in the stakeholder mix.  If your life is not in balance your project is at risk.

Communication Methods:

Your project and your team will determine the best mix of emails, phone calls and meetings.  Experienced teams meet only as required.  Inexperienced team need to meet as required assuring efficient work prosecution.  Group meetings should be for group discussions – not for discussions best served by one-on-one or small group meetings.

Be professional in your email communication.  It is all too common for email dialog to become too casual or too emotional.

Communication Tools

The following tools are often used for communication:

  • Email and similar written communication
  • Project Meetings
  • Action item lists
  • Task Notices
  • Critical Issues reports (Dailies / Weeklies / Monthlies)
  • Punch Lists 

Email and Written Communication

Determine the level of formal notification required and document what needs to be documented.  Documentation generally foals into the following groups:

  1. Scope definition
  2. Coordination of cost and schedule information
    a. Future efforts
    b. Past performance
  3. Status reporting
  4. Documentation of changes
  5. Problem resolution
  6. Decision analysis
  7. Contracts and agreements
I  Word to the Wise –

Treat email as formal communication.  Use proper grammar; check spelling; double check to make sure your message is clear.

Project Meetings

Project success depends on the completion of tasks that are interdependent.  This requires teamwork and collaboration.  Toward this goal - meetings can be one of the most powerful leadership tools or one of the least. 

Meetings are the primary setting where one-to-group management skills are exercised and the place where these skills can have the greatest impact on the performance of the team.  The way you and the members of your work unit behave when you come together in meetings is an important factor in creating a high performance team.

Creating the High Performance Team, Wilson Learning Corporation

Typical Meeting Agenda

Each meeting should have a purpose and an agenda.  Common agenda items:

  1. Project Status
  2. Change management, current issues and concerns
  3. Quality management, current issues and concerns
  4. Current action items (a review of the past due actions)
  5. Risk management
  6. Project schedule and the tasks that need to be completed in the next 30 days
  7. Recap of near term assignments and actions 

Task and Activity Management

A major function of the project manager is the management of activities and tasks.  It is important that all work efforts are well defined with scope, schedule and budget known.  If the team is experienced the tasks can be large and the tasks listed on the schedule.  If the team is experienced the tasks can be defended on an Action Item list, see below.  If needed Sub-tasks can be defined in specific Task Notices, see below.

This can be a top down or bottom up effort. 

Top Down:  the PM defines and delegates the task
Bottom Up: the team members define the tasks

Bottom Up has proven to be the best method for task ownership. 

F  Voice of Experience –

Pick the communication method that works best.  Based on the individual, the communication method and style may be different.

Action Item List

An action item list identified the actions required.  For each action you assign:

  1. Who will do the task (assigned to)
  2. When it will be done (due date)
  3. Current status
  4. Recent Progress and actions
  5. Date completed



Assign each action item a number and list the items on a word document or spreadsheet. 

The action item list should be reviewed regularly with items needing assistance identified.

Task Notices

Task notices are sometimes needed to schedule the activities required to complete a schedule task or action item.  As an example:

Example 1: Develop a Value Engineering Study, due 9/15

Task:  The XYZ study shall include….

Specific Sub-Tasks:

  1. Develop draft Table of Contents (TOC)          John, due 8/15
  2. Circulate the draft TOC to the team              John, due 8/15
  3. Team review of TOC                                  Team, 8/15-8/22
  4. Team provide comments on TOC                 Team, duce 8/22 


Critical Issues Report (CIR)

The Critical Issues Report documents the progress of the project and coordinates critical issues.  Depending on the size of the project the report can be issued daily, weekly and/or monthly. 

Critical issues are issues impacting project scope, schedule, budget, risk or quality and require resolved in a timely manner.  Identify the milestone dates required for issue resolution.  Identify any issues or concerns.  Note the person currently taking action and the person responsible for issue resolution.  .

Include an update on each key project management area of responsibility: 

  1. Scope: identify the work performed and all changes in process. 
  2. Schedule: On all active schedule tasks identify the percent complete and the anticipated date of completion. 
  3. Procurement: identify the status of procurement efforts.
  4. Quality: identify the QA/QC efforts complete with the metrics for the work performed this period
  5. Communication: identify upcoming meetings and the due dates for documents and reports.
  6. Risk: identify current risk issues and their mitigation efforts.
  7. Cost Management: review the work performed against the task budgets.
  8. Change Management: include the status on current and potential changes to project scope, schedule or budget.
  9. Planning:  Identify the work completed this period, the work “in process” and the work planned for the next report period. 

The critical issues report should be brief and to the point.  It should not be a cut and paste compilation of all correspondence.  Progress is often documented in bullet points. 

Add all items requiring action to the Action Item list.

I  Word to the Wise –

It is best to organize the CIR so the critical issues are at the top – channeling the reader’s focus to the issues requiring attention. If the CIR includes critical issues and the CIR is transmitted by email - indicate on the transmittal email that the CIR includes critical issues.

F  Voice of Experience –

The CIR serves as a great team communication tool – all team members should participate, providing input.  Those that have difficulty documenting progress often undermanage their work effort, leading to potential cost, quality and / or schedule difficulties.

I  Word to the Wise –

Often the budget review is conducted through separate stand alone reporting.  Though separate the budget should never be forgotten… Develop a format where the task leaders report the actual and forecast work effort as it relates to the task budget.  [Reference the section on Earned Value reporting.]



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Construction Management Southeast Kansas

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