What You Should Know about Control Communications for the PMP Certification Exam

Control Communications ensures that the communications management plan is effective. The communications management plan you should know about for the PMP Certification Exam may evolve and be updated throughout the project as new stakeholders enter the project, new information needs are identified, and communications requirements change.

Control Communications. Monitoring and controlling communications throughout the entire project life cycle to ensure that the information needs of the project stakeholders are met.

Control Communications: Inputs

As with all main controlling processes in a knowledge area, you start with the relevant project management plan elements, the actual results, work performance data, and organizational process assets (OPAs).

The elements of the project management plan that you will use are the communications management plan and the stakeholder management plan. Compare the information in those plans with the communications that were actually delivered as well as the associated work performance data, such as

  • When information was distributed

  • Whom information was delivered to

  • Additional information requests

  • Feedback on the information, timeliness, or medium

Project communications includes status reports, performance reports, forecasts, presentations, updated project documents and project management plan elements, lessons learned, correspondence, minutes, and so forth.

You may use the issue log to identify any issues that need to be communicated. For example, the sponsor or PMO may want to be notified about any issues that have high impacts or would negatively affect key stakeholders.

Control Communications: Tools and Techniques

When comparing the results of the communications process, you may engage experts in meetings to help determine whether the process is working effectively — and if not, how to improve it. Sometimes it’s a matter of changing how information is presented. You can use information management systems to improve the usability and readability of information by putting data in charts, tables, and graphic formats (such as a dashboard or story board).

If effective communication is an issue, you can check whether any of the following common communication blockers are the culprit. As you can well intuit, communication blockers are things people do that inhibit good communication. The following list highlights common communication blockers along with an example or a brief explanation.

  • Using the wrong communication media: You wouldn’t send a corrective action notification via e-mail. You would have that kind of communication in person, one-on-one.

  • Making erroneous assumptions about your audience: For example, sometimes project managers make the mistake of assuming that people already know what they know. If you leave out what you consider introductory information and only address more specific issues, your audience might not understand your message. Having a lack of common understanding leads to ineffective communication.

  • A receiver in an area with a lot of background activity: The background activity can reduce the recipient’s ability to hear your message or focus on your message because she is distracted.

  • Withholding information: Sometimes team members withhold performance issues or challenges until it’s too late to do anything about them. Another example is if your sponsor knows that a reorganization is going to impact your project but withholds that information, blocking the flow of communication.

  • Ignoring cultural differences: Different organizations have different cultures with regards to work hours, quality of work, accountability, and so on. If you assume that a contractor has the same culture as your organization, you will have issues.

  • Stereotyping: Assuming that all technical people think in a certain way or that all senior management will act in a certain manner reduces your ability to really hear what someone from one of those groups is saying.

  • Having preconceptions about the audience: Similar to stereotyping, if you’re at a meeting and you have preconceptions about how your audience will behave, you may miss cues about what your audience is thinking, or you might not deliver the information the audience is interested in.

  • Displaying emotions and reactive behavior: Part of being professional is not letting your emotions get in the way of your communication. Communicating with a person acting emotionally is difficult.

  • Employing selective listening: Selective listening means that someone is hearing only the parts of the message he wants to hear. Say you’re presenting a status report to your sponsor. You state that the project is mostly on track, but there are a few concerns with the schedule. The sponsor hears only the part about how things are on track and ignores or avoids the information about the schedule concerns.

  • Engaging in power games: Making decisions and taking actions based on political gain, or trying to dominate a situation based on your power, can inhibit open and honest communication.

  • Management by memo: There are times when an e-mail or a memo is appropriate; however, you can’t manage a project via memo, and you can’t deliver critical information via e-mail. You have to have face-to-face interaction.

  • Sending mixed messages: An example of a mixed message is when a team member states she understands what you want, but her facial expression seems confused, or she’s disorganized and asks the same questions again.

Control Communications: Outputs

The outputs from this process are the standard outputs:

  • Work performance information: Information about the effectiveness of the communications process, such as the timeliness of reports, the effectiveness of presentations, and so forth.

  • Change requests: Corrective or preventive action needed to bring performance into alignment with the plan, or to meet changing stakeholder information requirements.

  • Project management plan updates: The communications management plan is the most likely document you will update, although the stakeholder management plan may also require updates as well.

  • Project documents updates: Performance reports, forecasts, and issue logs are the most likely documents that will need updating.

  • Organizational process assets updates: All project documentation, including lessons learned, outcomes of issue resolution, and corrective actions.

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