Mitigating misunderstanding in a project environment

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The author spent the first part of her career working in IT and IT Project Management in the oil industry and investment banking on complex global projects involving the management of outsourced project teams. She now runs a digital marketing company with particular expertise in technical SEO and Content Marketing.

Have you ever played Chinese Whispers? Dubious name aside, it is a fun and entertaining game that just about anyone can play. One person has a phrase to begin with, and they whisper it as quietly as possible to another in the group. This person then does the same with what they think has just been whispered to them. The last one to receive the whisper has to say out loud what they think has been said. The final phrase is almost never even close to the original.


When similar things happen in a project environment, the end result is not hilarity – it can be disastrous. Can you imagine the trouble your project would be in, if somebody misheard the deadline and didn’t bother to verify it – however odd it sounded?


The end result of that, if left unchecked, would be a failed project on an epic scale. Not only that, but it is highly unlikely that the client would ever want to do business with you again – and believe me, they would not be able to keep that cat in the bag even if they wanted to!


Dealing with the misunderstanding before it gets to problematic proportions

‘Official’ channels of communication

Have one place, or method, for forwarding queries or concerns with one person answering each – officially. This may not completely remove conjecture and inaccuracy, but it will certainly help to control their numbers. Also, an official project Wiki can be an invaluable source of information that can help remove doubt and misunderstanding.

A project manager should have a clear plan for communication in any case, it is just good practice. The above is useful for bug hunting and problem solving, but other communication methods should be employed as well – especially between departments that require frequent updates from one another.

E-Mail Blasts

Having the channels and Wikis mentioned above is one thing, getting people to use and read them is another. E-mail blasts aimed at team members, managers and stakeholders will remind people that the resources are there and that they should refer to them wherever possible.

This is also a good way to inform everybody a concern that may have arisen is actually just the result of a poorly written memo or a misunderstood voicemail message.

Be the eyes and ears

Not everything is going to be requested in the approved manner, not every bit of the Wiki is going to be searched and read properly. This is why you need to have your eyes and ears open for anything that may not be completely accurate, or could cause confusion and misunderstanding later on down the line.

As project manager it is your responsibility to make sure that these things are managed properly.  If you opt to delegate the oversight of these, then you must have supreme confidence in the person that you elect to do it.


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Project management has developed into a fully-fledged chartered profession since the granting of the Royal Charter in the UK to The Association for Project Management (APM) in 2017. Training courses for project managers were already available and highly popular to help people gain professional project management accreditation, but with this wider recognition of the profession it is now seen as a desirable career path for many. Whilst the APM has the coveted Royal Charter and continues to develop its APM PMQ (formerly the APMP) programmes, there are also other internationally recognised qualifications that continue to be highly regarded such as PMP and PRINCE2.

Organisations have become increasingly project-focused in this era of rapidly emerging new technologies and they value the expertise that comes with experienced and fully qualified project teams and managers. By investing in their project management capability businesses can be confident of delivering their new projects in time and on budget more often and more successfully. Many major corporation are now training their people to have the right project management qualifications as well as relevant experience, through internal Learning & Development (L&D) programmes; or by using external project management training providers.

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