Effective Project Management Starts Early

Dan Zwart
April 14, 2015 • 3 min read

For the second year in a row, Tuscarora High School has partnered with Project Management Institute’s (PMI) Washington Chapter and Future Leaders in Project Management (FLiPM®) to bring project management training to a group of graduating seniors.  The curriculum covers all of the project management knowledge areas – teaching students essential project management theories, methodologies, and best practices. They learn that project management is the process of using the resources of a project to efficiently and effectively achieve its goals through planning, organizing, staffing, leading, and controlling. Upon conclusion of the curriculum, students are prepared to take the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification exam.

When invited to teach a portion of the FLiPM curriculum, I jumped on the opportunity – and requested the Communication Management module.   Why communication?  Because I believe it’s at the heart of all successful projects. If we can’t effectively communicate, our efforts fall short.  This can be seen not only in projects in the workplace but in our homes and charity efforts as well.

Communication can be a problem area because we take it for granted. Of course we know how to communicate – we do it all day long! Look at all the great tools we have — blogs, Twitter, texting, email, and the list goes on. Not to mention the old-school phone and face-to-face approaches. We assume just because we’re saying a lot, that we’re communicating.  I would beg to differ.

More communication isn’t the solution.  As taught in the PMI curriculum, effective communication begins with knowing your audience, determining the appropriate communication technique, and putting effort toward getting your message across. We spent some time exploring the differences between hearing and listening – a topic the high school students all seemed to easily relate to. We went on to discuss how non-verbal communication, such as body language and inflection, communicate more to the listener than the words we use.  And these are not easily transmitted when we’re using technology to communicate.  While trying not to sound too much like an old fuddy-duddy, I couldn’t help but share my preference for good old face-to-face, let’s-sit-down-and-work-this-out form of communication.  No doubt we’d all agree there’s a time when texting is convenient, and when email is necessary, but let’s never lose sight of the value of real-time, eye-to-eye interactions – when communication is most effective. Not to mention the valuable relationships that can be built when sitting face-to-face.

The students went on to discuss how they will be using various communication models and techniques in their current project, where they have been tasked to research a new toy and bring it to market.  A project with a variety of stakeholders, requiring many different communication approaches to be successful.

I’m proud of these students for their accomplishments and congratulate them on their upcoming high school graduation.  While they look forward to the next chapter of their lives I pray they have learned a bit more about the effort and attention that effective communication deserves and how it contributes heavily to the success of their endeavors – academic, professional, and personal.

At Telos, we value the opportunity to invest in future technologists. As a project manger, I’ve been privileged to work beside several recent graduates – and have been very pleased with their backgrounds, eagerness, and aptitude to absorb new technologies and learn new skills.

Dan Zwart
Software Project Manager
Dan Zwart is the Software Project Manager at Telos Corporation.
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