Medical device project management often involves cross-functional teams and people with different skill sets, experience levels, and talents. Plus external stakeholders and a peer network to manage. A skilled medical device project leader needs to know how to get the most out of everyone while benefiting the project, team, and the medical device company as a whole. That’s where communication comes into play.
For, a large part of project management and leadership is to understand the intent of the project and communicate it with the necessary stakeholders while clarifying:
- Their role in the project
- The project goals and requirements
- Their individual responsibilities
- The tasks they should be accomplishing, by when, and how well.
As a project manager or a project management consultant, you should be able to work with the entire medical device team to break the project down into manageable pieces. You should be able to plan and choreograph the entire process so that the project gets done on time and on budget. That requires the ability to clearly communicate each of those things at a macro level, to your company, team members, and management.
Everyone has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouthMike Tyson
Every plan has the capacity to fail. Or to at least change midway.
When that happens, it’s the project leader’s job to ensure that the project team sticks as close to the plan as possible by replanning and reallocating their resources. This is only possible if the entire team works like a well-oiled machine. The lubricant in this case – communicating the right things to prevent your project from going off the rails.
With the judicious use of schedules, reports, team meetings, and other verbal and written communication, the entire medical device project team can stay on top of the project plan; Changes and all.
And while things have changed in how we communicate post-pandemic, the key communication tenants have not. This includes the fact that an effective project leader is a great communicator with absolutely everyone.
That’s saying something as medical device projects involve everyone from admin and support staff to technicians to chemists, microbiologists, and QA personnel. It can have trainees as well as senior members with 20+ years of experience. And then there are external stakeholders like clients and vendors.
A highly successful project leader knows what to say, how to say it, when to say it, and who to say it to for maximum impact. We can break it down into:
1) Communication with company management
Project managers also have managers or company heads they report to. Same with independent medical device project management consultants like Waddel Group. As project leaders, you need to ask them:
- What kind of information they want to get about the project.(An overview, just the important stuff, minute details?)
- How they want to receive the project information (reports, meetings, zoom calls, emails?)
- How often they want to receive this information. (Quarterly, monthly, weekly?)
- What expectations they have from the project.
You also need to know how to communicate to manage those expectations if they turn out to be unreasonable.
If you don’t ask those questions, you often end up making the wrong assumptions impacting the project in a negative way.
2) Communicating with your project team
To effectively manage a successful medical device project team, a project manager must be very aware of how each member of their team likes to communicate.
- How do they like to receive their responsibilities and be informed about their role in the project?
- How often do they like to be ‘managed’ or ‘checked-on’?
- How often do they like to ‘check in’ with you, their project manager?
- Do they require hand holding and constant supervision or are they more comfortable with not seeing you regularly.
You need to meet them where they are at and adjust your communication style according to their preferences and personalities.
3) Communicating with peers
As a medical device project leader, communicating with your peers is more nebulous than communicating with your team or your bosses/clients. In a matrix organizational structure, you have cross-functional teams. You often work with peers as opposed to having a hierarchy where someone reports to you and you report to someone else. For example, a project manager may have to communicate and work with the quality assurance and control manager. Or with a project manager of another team working on a different aspect of the same medical device project. In that case, you need to establish communication guidelines in a way that works for them.
4) Communication with external stakeholders
As project managers and project management consultants, you generally consider vendors to be a part of your project team. Your interactions with them will vary depending on their personality and where they fall in their company hierarchy. Are they a peer who is running their own team? Or are they a part of the team headed by another in their company?
Sometimes there’s also an added layer of complexity in terms of ‘what’ you can communicate with them. Since they are not a part of your company, they can’t be made privy to certain confidential project information.
Communicating the right things is important. But so is communicating them in the right manner.
That’s where listening to others plays a huge role.
Words only provide a 10th of the communication: Body language, tone, and other interactions provide the rest.
Communication isn’t just providing information to people. It’s also receiving feedback and information from them. And every single one of these people is going to communicate differently. The key is to observe and ‘listen’ to what they’re telling you and how to understand their communication style.
Knowing how they communicate helps you look for what they are not saying sometimes. And sometimes it’s looking for very specific details in what’s being communicated.
Stereotypically the management of a company is more adept at politics so I look for what’s not being said. As opposed to what words come out of their mouth. Thus listening to what’s really being said.Tom Waddell
The tone and medium of communication also differ from person to person.
Some people like to verbally communicate, while some are comfortable with emails. With the advent of technology, a ton of new ways of communication have cropped up from remote meetings, to slack channels and project management software.
What if someone only wants to work through CRM tools? What if they only work on a task if it’s on their dashboard and not otherwise? If you don’t work that way, it’s time to set clear boundaries and communication guidelines. Perhaps set up a system that works for both of you.
Your job as a project manager is to communicate. It’s up to you to ensure everyone is on the same page.
You have to speak to people at a level they understand and want to be spoken to. Once you listen to what people are saying, you have to feed back to them what you are hearing. That way when they react to it, you can ensure that what’s being communicated is what you intended to be communicated.
A project involved getting information from a technical person who wasn’t very social. After a week of hunting, I found him in his office which was in the bowels of the company and known to very few people. When I started talking to him about how the project needed to go, he just looked at me and asked, “are you one of the guys who’s nice to me because you need something from me or are you gonna be a jerk and just come down here and demand it?” I looked at him and smiled and said, “Which one would you prefer?” And he started laughing and asked, “How can I help?” That simply, I broke the ice. I saw what was useful within the moment and ensured that the guy knew he was appreciated and needed. And some humor never hurts. –Tom Waddell
The Waddell Group provides strategic-level project leaders and project management consultants for the medical device industry. Beyond essential project management skills, our highly experienced consultants know how to lead teams, manage in times of crisis, and influence change. Take a look at our work and see how we can help you get on the right track with our project management team.