Project Management Institute

Communication

the key to effective project management

PM Industy

In Focus

commu'ni-cate v. 1. to impart, transmit; 2. to make known, tell; 3. to be connected as rooms; 4. to hold converse; impart ideas or information

Steven K. Mauss (pronounced “Moss”) is president of American NETRONIC, Inc. (AN I), the North American distributing and marketing affiliate of NETRONIC Software GmbH. Holding a B.S. in computer science from California State University Long Beach, Steve has been involved in successfully planning and implementing large-scale computing systems for over ten years.

Prior to joining AN I, Mr. Mauss was a senior systems analyst at Rockwell International, where he directed the design and implementation of engineering automation systems. In all of his designs, Mauss focused on the “human element” of information management, creating computing environments that were large enough to handle complex tasks but still “friendly” enough for the average user.

Steve is a participating member of the Project Management Institute, and is actively engaged in promoting the implementation of new software technologies in the field of project management. In his spare time he enjoys being with his family, playing racquetball, basketball, skiing, and water sports.

The art of communication: It is the means by which we transmit information to one another, the way we make known to each other ideas, facts, figures, requirements, and needs.

Communication allows us to work together. Without it we would be unable to accomplish group projects and tasks. Good communication in an enterprise promotes organization, efficiency, and profitability. Lack of it causes a company to become paralyzed, unable to act, make decisions, generate profits, or function in a cost effective manner. In today's competitive marketplace no business entity can afford to exist without good communication.

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With the advent of computers as a standard method of handling information, it soon became apparent that the most effective data processing machines were those that could communicate well with both people and other machines. Over the last few decades, vast amounts of brain power and money have been expended to make communication with and between machines easier. Today's trend is towards large networks of computers and linkage of intra- and inter-company information systems that allow us to share data and inforrnation in ways that our ancestors never dreamed of. Ongoing development of new tools and technology has made it easier for data to be exchanged and manipulated.

Unfortunately, in our quest towards high technology, we sometimes overlook the most important aspect of data commication: people. Real, live human beings must not only be able to understand what comes out of computers but they must also be able to take that data and use it in communicating with other real, live human beings. Indeed, the weakest part of many information systems is not the particular brand of computer or LAN/WAN the company has chosen, nor is it the software that has been set up as “the corporate standard.” Typically, the weakest part of any information network appears when the human beings themselves begin passing information to each other.

Most of us remember playing the game “Telephone” as children where a message is whispered into the ear of one person, then another. The message is passed around the room until the last person in the chain verbalizes the message out loud. Everyone laughs when they find that the message is far different from the one first whispered. Those involved in project management know, however, that this kind of miscommunication between team members is no laughing matter. It can be costly, if not fatal to the project.

Sometimes the solutions to problems that have an outward appearance of difficulty are quite simple to resolve. But problems surrounding effective communication can only be dealt with in the context of today's project environment realities. All members of a project team bring with them life and work experiences that affect the way they communicate and interact with other people and machines. Understanding and coping with the diversity of communication methodologies during the very beginning stages of a project is key to successful, on-time completion. Just as a project manager plans for the distribution of resources (human or otherwise) over time and the logical constraints between tasks, so should the inter-dependencies of resources in the communication process be considered. What data will be required and generated? Who will generate the data and what tools will be necessary? How will data be passed to project team members who depend on it so that the information does not become distorted as in the “Telephone” game?

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As project management professionals, we need to understand the importance of clear, concise, communication as it relates to the success of projects. Perhaps it is time to focus as much energy on total project communication, including the human element, as we have applied over the past few years to enabling machines to communicate more effectively. It is far better to implement effective communication methodologies from the outset of a project instead of waiting until the critical path has already been affected. As one of our primary project planning objectives, a clear focus on effective communication will result in more efficient projects that finish on time and under budget.

Organizational Profile

American NETRONIC, Inc.’s mission is to provide project management professionals with the necessary tools to effectively communicate project information within their organization. Desiring to create a product that could clearly show project status through graphical representation of project data, NETRONIC made its entry into the market with GRANEDA software in 1975. Initially providing the industry with superior networks, market demand led to the inclusion of equally advanced Gantt charts, work breakdown structures, and cost/resource diagrams.

GRANEDA sales worldwide are estimated at over $6.5 million a year. Building on the company's base product, the product line has grown to include the interactive products GRANEDA Dynamic and VARCHART, a resource library for software developers.

Expanding on its goal to promote better communication through clear, concise reporting, the company also provides consulting services, custom systems and applications development, and a full array of training courses.

Headquartered in Newport Beach, California, American NETRONIC, Inc. provides project management graphics software and services throughout the United States and Canada. Its customers include some of the country's largest utility companies, nuclear waste disposal and management facilities, automotive companies, construction and engineering firms, scientific research institutes, and aerospace/defense firms.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI.

AUGUST 1993

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