Project Team Communication

Unless you are a “one-man band” that can do everything your project needs (which probably means it is a house addition) you will have a Project Team to coordinate. A failure to do that well throws the doors wide open to a whole array of risk issues.

Is it just about communication?

It’s easy to say “that’s just a communication problem” – but the task is often complex, and less experienced Team Leaders can – and do – run into trouble. When there is an independent PM involved, or when you are part of a Project Alliance controlled by a developer, the management issues get a lot more complex and hard to control. Some of the risk factors impacting Team Coordination are:

  1. Lack of a single point of control over Team Coordination
  2. Lack of common graphic standards for documentation
  3. Team members reporting to different “bosses” – especially where a client or owner goes directly to a team member rather than through the Project Manager
  4. Inability of some team members to perform, through competing projects, time pressure or lack of competent staff
  5. Competing / conflicting personalities

Is there a solution?

Simple answer: YES! Although you might experience some resistance to some of these ideas, the more of them you implement, the more smoothly the project will run, and the lower both your frustration and your risk exposure will be:

  1. Offer the client/owner a comprehensive project management service (separate from and in addition to the design service) that identifies and structures the communication issues that are mission-critical. Convince the client/owner that success requires it.
  2. Ensure that your PMs have the skills they need to make good on the promise described above. If you have any doubts, send them to the PSMJ Project Management Essentials program. (See for details).
  3. Think through the complex web of essential interfaces between components of the project, and the order in which they need to be started, and completed. In other words, schedule ALL system interfaces, not just the ones you are responsible for – that needs to be a key part of the package you offer the client/owner.
  4. Identify critical client decisions and inputs, and schedule them.
  5. As lead consultant, ensure that you provide other consultants with the information THEY need, when they need it. It is common practice for engineers to “hold off” on their design work until the end, as they don’t want to do rework caused by the architect changing her mind. Understandable, but a coordination disaster.


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