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Project Culture and Communication

For Large Projects

A "project culture" is a set of beliefs, attitudes and behaviours that exist independently of the individuals in the project.

When there is a strong project culture, when people leave or join the project, the culture remains unchanged - what changes, if anything, is the behaviour of the people to match the culture.

A large project can exist without a culture - in which case behaviours may be very incoherent, jeopardising project performance.

Also, a project culture can be too strong - where valuable, alternative viewpoints are dismissed and the project may miss importance new information.

Leadership marketing

To gain commitment, leadership has to be sold to the project team:

“managers are the suppliers of leadership, and project members are the customers”     (S P Myers)

Part of your project plan should include how you market the direction and leadership to those involved.

The Problems of Large-Scale Communication

You may recall from an early section that effective communication involves recognising how information can be distorted by the media used for communication, the filters involved (including the communication styles of both sender and receiver). Communication can also be distorted by the effect of in/out groups and "background noise" (other messages taking place outside your control).

For large projects, you have to deal with the problem of disseminating information whilst trying to anticipate and mitigate message distortion. This involves getting feedback and checking understanding, correcting any misunderstandings or message distortion that has occurred, getting more feedback to check understanding, and so on until the message has been communicated clearly.

In a large project this is particularly difficult. In face-to-face discussion between two people, this feedback loop can take just a matter of seconds to complete. But in large project environments, communication can breakdown not only as a result of filter/media distortion, but also because:

  • Information is not disseminated to relevant parties
  • Feedback is not sought, or cannot be obtained from everyone, to establish how that communication is received
  • If feedback is sought, the forum or size of group often discourages feedback from being offered
  • The feedback loop operates very slowly
  • Therefore, misunderstandings are not recognised and addressed

Overcoming these problems

In a large project, you can only tackle these problems by defining and managing the processes involved. A large project is, by definition, too large for you to do it by personal action alone.

Project Management Training: Soft Skills Tools

Project Management Training



Trust and Rapport


Winning Commitment


Using Power



Small Teams

Group Conflicts

Team Development

Managing Difference


Team Islands

In/Out Groups

Building the wider team

Large Projects

Project Culture

Putting it all together

Each important line of communication needs to be examined to ensure a timely and effective feedback loop is in place. The feedback loop can be tested by walking through what might happen if the disseminated information is completely misunderstood, and seeing how (if at all) the misunderstanding is identified and resolved by the message-giver.

Therefore, you need to:

  • Identify the principle lines of communication for your project - eg: project manager to team-member, or team-member to project customer.

  • Assess how the feedback loop operates (or, if there isn’t such a loop in place, how it could operate).

  • Test the feedback loop by asking what would happen if the original message was comletely misinterpreted.

The next article in this online course is:

Project Management Training:
Soft Skills Part 16: Putting it all together

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©2013 Team Technology. Further articles/resources that may be of interest include: Personality Test, Personality Type Descriptions, Myers Briggs overview, The Basics of Team Building, What Career is Right for Me?, and Career ideas.