Communicating Project Management : A Participatory Rhetoric for Development Teams book cover
1st Edition

Communicating Project Management
A Participatory Rhetoric for Development Teams

ISBN 9781138046429
Published March 22, 2018 by Routledge
192 Pages

FREE Standard Shipping
USD $52.95

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

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.

Table of Contents




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


View More



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