What are communication blockers?
If you feel that communication in your project is a problem, it’s ineffective, but you don’t know why and how to improve it, you should check whether any of the common communication blockers are the reason. Communication blocker is something that blocks the effective communication, it’s something that people do, not always intentionally, but the effects are negative both on the other project team members and the project as a whole.
Making false assumptions about the audience
For example, you can make the mistake of assuming that people already know something. It happened to me in a lot of meetings, I assumed that everybody has the necessary background knowledge and therefore I decided to don’t cover the introductory information and focused only on specific issues. It was a mistake. As a result, my audience didn’t understand the message properly what caused further problems in the project.
A lot of background activity in the receiver’s area
The background activity can reduce the recipient’s ability to hear your message or focus on your message because she is distracted. If possible, try to avoid important communication when your recipients don’t have proper conditions to hear and understand the message.
Sometimes team members don’t communicate, especially about risks and problems. They wait until it’s too late to do anything about them. To avoid this situation, encourage project stakeholders and team members to communicate as soon as they identify a risk. Ask encouraging questions, at the end of each meeting you can ask for example, whether anybody has any obstacles or identified any risk in his surroundings.
Ignoring cultural differences
Ignoring cultural differences may cause a lot of communication issues. Different organizations have different cultures with regards to work hours, quality of work, accountability, etc. You can’t assume that a contractor from different organization has the same culture as your organization. What you have to do is to take time to understand his culture and explain him how and why people work in your organization.
Another blocking in related with stereotypes. We can’t assume that all technical people think in a certain way or that all senior management will act in a certain manner. It reduces your ability to really hear what someone is saying. You may miss cues about what your audience is thinking, or you might not deliver the information the audience is interested in.
Wrong communication channel
If you use the wrong communication media, then your message may not be noticed by the recipient or may be forgotten. For example – if you have some very important changes to communicate, don’t use pull but push communication. Don’t put the information to the project portal, but send a direct email to the recipients. However, if your message is not very important and urgent, don’t overuse push communication, because the recipients will be overloaded and will stop paying attention to your emails.
Management by email
There are times when an e-mail or a memo is appropriate, but you can’t manage entire project through emails, and you can’t deliver all critical information via e-mail. Sometimes you have to have face-to-face interaction, especially when it comes to personal corrective actions. You have to read the body language in order to ensure what is the recipient’s feedback for your message.
Sending mixed messages
Imagine that a team member claims that he understands what you want, but at the same time he seems confused and you see in his eyes something opposite. You have to encourage him to as questions, or simply explain everything in other words.
Selective listening – which means hearing only the parts of the message that you want to hear. For example, imagine a team leader presenting a status report to you. He informs that his team’s tasks are mostly on track, but there are a few concerns with the schedule. You may choose to hear only the part about how things are on track and ignore the information about the schedule concerns. However, it may bring you even bigger problems in future.
Engaging in “power games”
If somebody makes decisions and takes actions based on their political gain, or for example dominate a situation based on their power, it may make other people act and communicate dishonestly.
How to eliminate communication blockers
Whenever you encounter a communication issue, think of the core reason of the problem, and try to find ways to improve it. Maybe you will have to change how the message is presented, use different communication technologies, ask experts on their opinions, and so on. It’s not possible to learn everything from theory, as while working with other people, you’ve got so many different communication factors that each situation is unique. However, if you will apply best practices for structuring the communication management in a project, and then when you will be aware of what communication blockers may appear and how to deal with them, you may improve the overall communication efficiency and increase the probability of final success. You can learn a lot about effective communication from the PMI’s knowledge portal here.