1st Edition

Communicating Project Management A Participatory Rhetoric for Development Teams

By Benjamin Lauren Copyright 2018
    192 Pages
    by Routledge

    192 Pages
    by Routledge

    Communicating Project Management argues that the communication practices of project managers have necessarily become participatory, made up of complex strategies and processes solidly grounded in rhetorical concepts. The book draws on case studies across organizational contexts and combines individual experiences to investigate how project management relies on communication as teams develop products, services, and internal processes. The case studies also provide examples of how project managers can be understood and studied as writers, further arguing project managers must approach communication as designed experience that must be intentionally inclusive. Author Benjamin Lauren illustrates to readers how teams work together to manage projects through complex coordinative communication practices, and highlights how project managers are constantly learning and evolving by analyzing where they succeed and fail. He concludes that technical and professional communicators have a pivotal role in supporting and facilitating participative approaches to communicating project management.




    Project Managers as Technical Communicators

    Distinguishing Between Participation and Collaboration

    A Bit About Scope

    My Background with Project Management



    Project Manager

    Efficiency Models

    Development Teams



    Participatory Communication


    The Research in this Book

    What is to Come

    Chapter Conclusion


    Chapter 1: Decentralization and Project Management


    Decentralized Development Teams

    Decentralization and Development Methodologies

    Agile Development

    Lean Development


    How Decentralization Influences the Role of Project Manager

    Decentralized Project Communication*

    Chapter Conclusion


    Chapter 2: Rethinking the Paradigm of Project Management: From Efficiency To Participative

    Project Management is Rooted in an Efficiency Paradigm

    Efficiency in Communicating Project Management

    Criticisms of Efficiency*

    Tensions Between Communicating Efficiency and Participation

    Participation Leads to Efficiency

    A Paradigm in Transition

    Participation and Project Management as Methodology

    Participation Informed by Participatory Design

    Participation Informed by Feminist Thinking*

    Project Management Methodologies as a Heuristic*


    Future Action


    Chapter Conclusion*


    Berkun, S. (2008). Making things happen: mastering project management. Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly Media

    Chapter 3: Communicating to Make Space for Participation: Locating Agency in Project Communication

    Theorizing Making Space Through Communication

    Extensions of Social Space*

    Locating Agency in Participation*

    Brief Description of the Study


    Interview Results: Communication Factors and Strategies

    Factor 1: Personality type*

    Strategies for Responding to Personality type

    Understand communication styles and approaches vary by person

    Understand that ICTs overwhelm some personalities

    Be self-aware of the effects of your own personality type

    Learn to talk less

    Use role-play to disarm people*

    Factor Two: Gender*

    Strategies Related to Gender

    Find common interests to build relationships across gender

    Intentionally adopt a gender neutral role*

    De-emphasize gender disparities

    Identify efforts to silence women*

    Use organizational networks and backchannels to give and receive feedback*

    Factor 3: Cultural and Linguistic Diversity*

    Strategies for Considering Cultural and Linguistic Diversity

    Focus communication on project work instead of language barriers*

    Give multilingual people time to prepare and respond to requests

    Understand the influence of national cultural identity on meeting spaces*

    Translate confusing language

    Use plain language

    Realize a person’s relationship to their cultural context is unique

    Be patient and give the benefit of the doubt*

    Recognize cross-cultural disagreements exist

    Be interested in cultural difference*

    Factor 4: Building and Maintaining Relationships

    Strategies for Building and Maintaining Relationships*

    Embrace unscripted moments*

    Learn about people’s intellectual background*

    Use organizational networks as a sounding board*

    Check on people’s perception of a communication or meeting

    Choose ICTs that get the job done (not always the latest technology) *

    Embrace face-to-face communication*

    Notify those affected by project changes ahead of time

    Learn who is being overworked and do something about it

    Recognize good work publicly

    Listen actively

    Be empathetic*

    Be available to meet/talk outside of meetings*

    Don’t waste people’s time*

    Factor 5: Attending to Psychological Safety

    Strategies for Attending to Psychological Safety*

    Be available after meetings

    Make safety with structure

    Change the meeting structure to suit the team

    Use ICTs to support feedback loops

    Create space for people to draw their own conclusions

    Understand how people experience safety

    Know that leadership personality can negatively impact safety

    Share in the risk of trusting people

    ICTs as surveillance can erode safety

    Use feedback loops*

    Seize moments for feedback

    Create a dependable rhythm for communication

    Use kickoff meetings to normalize communication expectations

    Factor 6: Development Methodologies

    Strategies for Communicating Within Development Methodologies

    Efficiency is less important than impact

    Adapt methods to the team or organization*

    Adapt methodologies to the team or organization

    Use development approaches to influence work, but don’t apply them as a rule

    Address methodological confusion*

    Be strategically agnostic (or apply methodologies as a heuristic)

    Remember each organization, project, and team is unique

    Factor 7: Organizational and Team Culture*

    Strategies for Responding to Organizational and Team Culture*

    Learn the team’s origin story

    Contemplate organizational context

    Read hierarchies of influence

    Work to develop a culture of inclusion

    Remove silos*

    Implications for Making Space

    Further evidence of a paradigm in transition*

    Making space is a business interest

    Agency as an Invitation

    Outcomes for Participatory Communication

    Intentional and Reactive

    Future Action*


    Chapter Conclusion*


    Chapter 4: On site with The Gardener and The Chef: Project Leadership and Communication*

    Communicating Leadership, Positionality, and Identity*

    Capturing Leadership Communication with Experience Sampling

    Data Collection Methods*

    Data Analysis Methods*

    Leadership Values The Gardener*

    Value 1: Teach Methods of Effective Collaboration*

    Value 2: Learn About Teams and Organizations*

    Value 3: Communicate to Include*

    Value 4: Be Responsible to the Team*

    Value 5: Empathize with People*

    A Mind Map of Communicating from The Gardener*

    Introducing The Chef*

    Leadership Values of The Chef*

    Value 1: Keep People on Task*

    Value 2: Assign Roles to Individuals and Teams*

    Value 3: Communicate to clarify the goal*

    Value 4: Be Responsible to the Project*

    Value 5: Empathize to Motivate Action*

    A Mind Map of Communicating from The Chef*

    Comparing Communication Values of The Gardener and The Chef*

    Leadership Identity as Rhetorical Performance*

    Chapter Conclusion*


    Chapter 5: Managing a Reorganization Project at CTI: Participation and Making Space for Communicating Change*

    Organizational Change and Project Management*

    Organizational Change as an Activity*



    Artifact Collection*


    Experience Sampling Reports*

    Analyzing Data*

    Research participant profiles*

    Participant 1: Bob*

    Participant 2: Tom*

    Participant 3: Don*

    Participant 4: Tammy*

    Participant 5: Steve*

    Participant 6: Sheila*

    Organizational Changes at CTI*

    CTI and Project Management*

    Participation and Communication at CTI*

    Disruptions During Synchronous Communication*

    Disruption 1: Infrastructure and information communication technologies*

    Disruption 2: Virtual collaboration*

    Disruption 3: Sharing and Retrieving information*

    Disruptions During Asynchronous Communication*

    Disruption 1: Lack of training in the new project management system*

    Disruption 2: Inconsistent adoption of project management system across the team

    Disruption 3: The existing role of email*

    Participation in the Activity System*

    Participation as Stable, Nonlinear, Productive*

    Chapter Conclusion*



    Chapter 6: Conclusion: A Participatory Rhetoric for Development Teams

    Reviewing the Chapters and Cases

    Characteristics of Participative Communication*

    Project Management Communication as Designed Experience

    Distributing Agency, Collectivizing Kairos

    Toward a Theory for Communicating Project Management

    Final Takeaways

    For Researchers

    For Project Managers

    For Instructors

    Chapter Conclusion



    Benjamin Lauren is an Assistant Professor at Michigan State University in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures. He is also an Assistant Director of the Graduate Program in Rhetoric and Writing. His work has been published in journals such as Technical Communication, Computers and Composition, the Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, and Transactions on Professional Communication.

    "As work becomes more projectified, we must understand project management like never before -- as a participative, collaborative practice. Through his lucid explanations and case studies, Ben Lauren explains how project management works, why it’s important in an increasingly decentralized world, and what its best practices are."

    -Clay Spinuzzi, Professor of Rhetoric and Writing, University of Texas at Austin

    "Methodologies-of-the-moment change from year to year, but project managers always need to be effective writers and communicators. Communicating Project Management is the book to read alongside any "how-to" guide focused on a particular methodology: it reveals how experienced project managers negotiate the complex factors, strategies, and values that impact team participation."

    -Stacey Pigg, Assistant Professor and Director of Professional Writing, North Carolina State University

    "Ben Lauren outlines how project managers can achieve a participatory communications culture. This book is a needed addition to the canon of literature for project managers--both experienced and novice."

    -Lisa Welchman, Digital Governance Advisor and Author

    "In Communicating Project Management, Ben Lauren encourages project managers to broaden and deepen their ability to communicate effectively and to encourage communication among their team members by making space for them to participate both actively and safely in the work of their projects."

    -JoAnn Hackos, President, JoAnn Hackos & Associates. Inc

    "Lauren’s research helps reveal the skills, attitudes, and character traits of expert project managers and, in doing so, paves the way for folks who are passionate about communication – including technical and professional writers – to find career paths in project management."

    -William Hart-Davidson, Associate Dean for Research & Graduate Education, Michigan State University & Graduate Education

    "This book gives us new perspectives in conceptualizing and practicing project management for information development projects. The focus on managing distributed work, regarding project management as an act of communication and as writing itself is exceptionally valuable."

    -Stan Dicks, Professor Emeritus, North Carolina State University