Project managers often oversee large projects that involve a huge amount of money and time. With so much on the line, one small slip-up caused by a lack of communication can have massive consequences.
In this blog post, we highlight several real-life examples of projects that went horribly wrong due to improper communication, and explore the overall importance of this skill for project managers.
3 projects that failed due to poor communication
Learn from the mistakes made by project managers in these failed projects:
The Denver International Airport, USA
In 1991, the Denver International Airport in the United States came up with the idea of automating its luggage check-in system by fixing bar-coded tags to each piece of passenger luggage. The airport ignored the suggested timelines from the company contracted to develop the system (BAE Systems), instead sticking to an unrealistic 2-year goal for completion.
Apart from taking on too much, the project managers also did not include the airlines in their planning talks. This lack of communication meant that several important features were not designed properly, and most of the work had to be completely redone. This resulted in losses of US$2 billion!
Highway 15 Overpass, Montreal
In October 2016, the City of Montreal in Canada was forced to demolish an overpass that was built only a year previously. After building the overpass, officials found that its positioning was not in accordance with the redesign of road access to the nearby Champlain Bridge (also under redevelopment). The cause of the mistake was found to be a failure to co-ordinate across multiple projects, all stemming from a lack of communication. The error cost taxpayers C$11 million.
Berlin Brandenburg Airport, Germany
You expect everything in Germany to run smoothly and efficiently, but this has certainly not been the case with the failed Brandenburg Airport in Berlin. After 15 years of planning, construction of the airport began in 2006, with an estimated completion date of October 2011 and an estimated construction cost of €2.83 billion. The airport is still under construction, and the new targeted opening date now stands at October 2020, with costs having ballooned to €6.5 billion.
Communication failures are at the top of the long list of problems with the project. Firstly, the vast number of stakeholders meant that communication efforts were extremely complex. Secondly, the city’s mayor Klaus Wowereit (project sponsor and supervisory board chairman) failed to share proper information, pretending that there were no problems during construction.
Why is communication so important for project managers?
Effective project managers are able to communicate clearly with a wide variety of stakeholders. The larger the project is, the greater the number of stakeholders you’ll need to consider and communicate with when making decisions and leading the project.
You’ll be required to meet the expectations of your client and the company you’re employed by, and you all need to be on the same page. Effective communication is essential in finding out what is required from you, for addressing any problems during the project, and for avoiding any potentially disastrous mistakes.
In addition to this, your role as project manager is a leadership-oriented one, so you have to communicate constantly with your team members from the beginning of every project. If certain team members don’t know what is expected from them, then you cannot expect them to carry out their work properly.
You will also need to have a clear line of communication with the various companies and contractors who have been enlisted to work on the project. For example, the project manager of a construction site will need to liaise with electricians, plumbers, and architects to ensure that all aspects of the project are taken into account.
So, if you’re planning on a career in project management, then it should be clear that developing communication skills needs to be a top priority for you!