From Failure to Success: The Importance of Communication in Turning Around a Challenging Project

From Failure to Success: The Importance of Communication in Turning Around a Challenging Project
Photo by Filip Mroz / Unsplash

Evaluation of the project has been concluded, and the results have been endorsed by the management. The project team agrees to learn from their experiences and shift their focus towards the future. A turnaround is imminent, but the organization is fatigued and weary due to prolonged and costly project work. How can you engage the organization in a journey of change and successfully reach the project's goals?

A turnaround is a comprehensive endeavor, typically requiring numerous measures to improve the situation. From identifying the root causes of the project's challenges to establishing a clear direction forward, there are several crucial steps along the way. One factor that cannot be overlooked is the significance of open and honest communication throughout the turnaround process.

Why is communication important in a turnaround?

There are several reasons why clear and effective communication is essential in a turnaround. Firstly, it helps build trust between the project team and project stakeholders. For a project facing significant challenges, it is crucial for stakeholders to understand what is happening in the project and how the challenges are being addressed. Good communication contributes to restoring trust and support from project stakeholders.

At the beginning of a turnaround, adjustments to the project's goals, scope, and timelines are common, which can create confusion among stakeholders regarding the intended outcomes. Therefore, it is important to proactively address any confusion and communicate what the project will deliver.

Furthermore, communication can help reduce uncertainty. Projects often involve organizational changes, and it is important to communicate what will be changed and how it will impact employees, in order to foster understanding and a sense of security.

How can you use communication to turn around a challenging project?

  1. Be proactive: Do not wait for employees and other stakeholders to come to you with questions or concerns about the project. Start the turnaround by communicating how the project organization will work towards success.
  2. Communicate regularly: Sending out a single newsletter informing that the project is restarting is not sufficient. Communicate regularly and provide updates on progress and what lies ahead.
  3. Be honest: It may be difficult to discuss the project's challenges. A common perception may be to downplay the difficulties by not addressing them. However, the disadvantage of such a tactic is that it allows different and incorrect perceptions to spread informally within the organization. Honesty builds trust and credibility, and by enabling stakeholders to understand the challenges, more individuals can take ownership of improving the situation.
  4. Provide context: When communicating changes in goals, scope, and timelines, it is important to explain the rationale behind each decision. This helps stakeholders understand the project's priorities.
  5. Adapt communication: Project stakeholders will have different information needs. You should tailor what and how you communicate to different recipients. Be mindful of using various communication channels and matching the message to each channel.

Turning around a challenging project is demanding, and clear and honest communication is a critical factor for success. By communicating proactively, regularly, being honest, providing context, and adapting communication, the project can rebuild trust and support from stakeholders. So, if your project is facing challenges or needs a turnaround, effective communication is a key tool to use.