By Luke Carlson, AIA, NCARB, Project Architect

Your team is working extremely hard, but it seems like no progress is being made. Project team members are highly skilled but not unmanageable. The project is complex but not overly difficult. The deadline is tight but not impossible. The simplest tasks seem to drain the team’s motivation to produce good work.  Every change or adjustment is met with apprehension and anxiety. You ignore the nagging feeling that something is wrong.

Communication is often viewed as a simple act. However, the more people who are involved the more complex it can become. Whether your project is big or small, bad communication can cripple how it’s running. Below are three areas that can improve how a project team communicates.

  • Project goals                                                              
  • Team roles
  • Tracking decisions

Project Goals

The goals of a project can vary drastically. The owner wants a “beautiful” building, the user groups want more space and storage, the patients want to be comfortable, and the code official wants a safe building.  The project team must define those goals and make sure all team members understand them at each stage of a project. The path to achieve those objectives can differ within the project team, but without clearly defined goals team members are in danger of becoming lost among a sea of requests and directives. 

Team Roles

Recognizing the roles of team members and what they are responsible for is crucial to creating good communication. Imagine a sports team who didn’t understand the roles of each player. How could they play as a team, let alone win a game? Understanding what a fellow team member is responsible for and how that contributes to the project provides guidance. Who manages the project schedule? Who initiates the “look” and layout of the building? Who’s in charge of researching code requirements for the project? Understanding team roles provides direction on where communication should flow and where to get answers to issues that develop.

Tracking Decisions

An unbelievable number of decisions are made during a building project. User group meetings, presentations, phone calls, emails, building codes, regional requirements, and government entities all contribute to which direction a project should take. Communicating those decisions among team members is crucial to the success of the project. How is a decision recorded? Why was that decision made? Was this decision a request or a requirement? When is direction distributed to the team? Recording decisions for a project directs the team on how to proceed and allows direction to guide the project to completion.

These are just a few areas that can improve communication among a team. The experience of being on a team that works well together can rival the feeling of completing a project. Good communication establishes and strengthens the trust and commitment of each team member to each other and contributes to the success of a project.