Why YOU Spend 90% of YOUR Time Communicating

by Margaret

“A Project Manager spends 90% of his or her time communicating.”

Really? Yes really!

“But if I spend all day talking on the phone and sending texts and emails and attending meetings when I am supposed to get my other work completed?”

THAT is a question that many students ask me when this topic comes up. Smart question.  I am glad they ask because:

  1. It makes me feel better because I used to have that exact same question too. :-)
  2. It opens the door to a very important discussion (which is more important than making me feel better).

The deliverables that you create as a project manager are meant to help bring the project to a successful completion. The deliverables that you create are meant to help you and the team become even more likely to meet your project objectives.

Have you ever tried to meet a goal without a clear definition of that goal? It is pretty frustrating isn’t it?

Enter your project management deliverables as a form of project communication. Each deliverable that you create throughout the project is actually a form of project communication.

Let’s step through this together.  Let’s assume you start with a project charter. That charter serves as an announcement about the project. Hopefully your charter describes the project, discusses what is known about the scope, the schedule, the budget, the risks, the assumptions and constraints and also your authority as the project manager.

Announcement describes, discusses – these words indicate a communication is taking place.

Your charter is approved – excellent! Perhaps you create some initial roles and responsibilities documentation. The purpose being to share information about who is on the team and why.

Share information – sounds like project communication to me.

Of course you want to go on and define your scope so that your sponsor and other stakeholders have a full understanding of what you and the team are creating as part of this project and equally as important what you are NOT creating as part of this project. Perhaps after the scope is presented for review and approval you create a WBS or work breakdown structure. Your WBS will show how the scope translates into the creation of deliverables and those deliverables are made up of achievable work. Your WBS shows what. You take that and create a schedule and budget, now with all of these deliverables in hand you are telling the world (OK, your world of stakeholders); what is happening, when it is happening, who will do it and how much it is going to cost.

Presenting scope, translating scope in work, telling the world what is happening and when? Aha, communications in project management yet again.

Let’s stop here. You can apply this type of thinking to each of the project deliverables that you and your team members create. The fact that we have not gone through and discussed every project deliverable possible does not mean that they are NOT forms of project communications too, it is simply that at this point you are either with me and onboard or you have moved on. (I sure hope you are still with me!)

If the project management deliverables you are creating cannot be used as project communications, please revisit your approach. Please do think of each and every project management deliverable that you create as an opportunity to communicate. An opportunity to remind, clarify, confirm and  inform others all about your project, the importance of your project, the strategic reason for your project, what will happen, when it will happen, who will do it and how we will know.

Before you know it when you encounter this statistic:

“A Project Manager spends 90% of his or her time communicating.”

You will say, “Hmmm that seems kind of low to me.”

Leave a Comment

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Sean August 29, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Margaret I completely agree with this perspective on how much of our time we spend communicating. Of course much of what we communicate requires analysis, planning and documentation. How much of you time do you find you spend on the administrative aspect of your job as a PM? Do you think you spend enough time preparing the messages you need to deliver? Thanks!


Margaret Meloni September 16, 2013 at 10:27 am

Hi Sean,

Every day I spend a portion of my day on what I think of as correspondence. Some days this takes more time than others.
I do not think it is ever less than 30% of any given day. Of course this 30% is just part of the overall ‘A Project Manager spends 90%…. formula’.
I have really learned to treat this as an important part of my work and not something which needs to be completed so that I can do my work.
When I began to frame communications and specifically correspondence as part of my work, it helped me to stop rushing through it.
I learned to allot time for it in my schedule and to give it the priority it deserves. When I stopped rushing through it, I believe that I started providing better information to all of my
stakeholders, which in turn created a better flow of information and stronger working relationships.

For example, answering your question. I realize I have not written you a volume here, but I did spend some time considering your question and
how best to respond. I did not want to give you a cursory ‘Dear Sean, I too spend 90% of my time communicating always……’; I wanted to try and share with you a little bit
about what I really do. My experience is not the same as others and my way is not the best way, it is just what works for me.

Do I spend enough time preparing the messages I need to deliver. Well…. I cannot give myself an A+ on this because there are times when my messages either do not make sense
or do not have the intended results. I feel like this is a skill I will work on as long as I am breathing.

Thank you for your most excellent question!

Margaret Meloni
pmStudent Community Leader


Sean November 26, 2013 at 9:54 am

Agreed I have found the same as well. The time I spent here has not only produced the results I’d intended but it has also proved to me that this is a vital part of my role which differs from the scope of work for others I work with. Thanks for your feedback!


Reynaldo F. Carlson November 18, 2013 at 2:23 am

In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable. – Dwight D. EisenhowerIke realized that the very act of planning and the frame of mind that it creates, lays the groundwork for intelligently dealing with challenges. Do yourself and your teams a favor and apply effort up front. The finest minds in an agency are a valuable resource to be used wisely. Time spent in the early phases of a project is a far more effective than time spent scrambling to find and apply resources hours before a deadline.


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