Good Relationships Depend on Good Communication

This may sound a bit like marriage guidance – and maybe it should. A lot of what is important for healthy personal relationships has a parallel with infrastructure projects that involve multiple partners.

The first thing the guidance always talks about is avoiding the ‘silent treatment.’ when there’s a problem or things aren’t going well it’s essential to talk. A healthy project partnership has a culture where everyone can say what’s on their mind, so that any issues are brought out into the open and dealt with.

The next bit of guidance is often about taking responsibility. It’s easy to assume that misunderstandings and problems are all somebody else’s fault. In a strong project partnership all individuals and organisations are able to accept responsibility and not be defensive if something goes wrong. Avoiding the blame game leaves more time and energy for working out how we can all get things back on track.

In healthy relationships, people are able to control their emotions. Complex infrastructure projects always bring pressure. Timings and budgets are usually tight and there will always be unexpected problems and details about the asset that couldn’t have been known or predicted. It’s easy for things to get heated and emotional when problems occur. In a strong, functional partnership, the focus is on understanding what happened so that effective solutions can be found; emotions just get in the way of this.

A project partnership is a complex relationship. There could be many partners and multiple interdependent activities and sub-projects. This means that there has to be a communications infrastructure covering what needs to be communicated and by what means, how issues get escalated and resolved, and common technology for informing everyone about project details and progress.

But ultimately the project partnership won’t work unless everyone is committed to positive attitudes and behaviours when it comes to communicating.