Project Team Communications (Best Practice)

RT-105 Topic Summary
RT 105


Previous research has established that effective communications are essential to the successful completion of engineer-procure-construct (EPC) projects. However, this finding would be of little benefit without a reasonable means of measurement.

In 1996, the research team for Project Team Communications (RT-105), investigated ways of measuring the effectiveness of project communications and evaluated the relationship between communication effectiveness and project success. The team, on the basis of its findings, developed Implementation Resource 105-2, the Compass: Communications Project Assessment Tool. The tool was designed to enable project managers to assess project team communications during the execution phases of an EPC project. The tool targets three project groups: project management, engineering, and construction.

The tool permits detailed analysis through the scoring of six critical categories of communication. These analyses help identify specific weaknesses in a project team’s communications and can be used in the development of improvement strategies. Communication scores can also be charted over multiple assessment periods, enabling trend analysis. It is recommended that the Compass tool be used as soon as the project team is assembled to establish a baseline assessement. Reassessments should be conducted periodically throughout the project.

In 2011, the CII Knowledge Management Committee (KMC) reviewed the original publications and updated and published an updated version of the communication assessment tool in Microsoft Excel 2007 format, along with a second version of the team’s research summary. 

Key Findings and Implementation Tools

1 : Communication and Project Success

To examine the relationship between communication and project success, the research team first identified the dimensions of communication effectiveness and project success. They then incorporated these dimensions into surveys that were completed by first line supervisors of CII member organization projects. The plot of the survey results below clearly illustrates the positive relationship between communications effectiveness and project success. (RS105-1, p. 6)
Reference: (RS105-1)

2 : Six Categories of Critical Communications Issues

The research team identified six categories of critical communications issues. They concluded that the communication survey questions logically fit within these categories: (RS105-1, p. 9)

  1. Accuracy The accuracy of information received as indicated by the frequency of conflicting instructions, poor communication, and a lack of coordination
  2. Timeliness The timeliness of information received, including design and schedule changes
  3. Completeness: The amount of relevant information received
  4. Understanding An understanding of information expectations with supervisors and other groups
  5. Barriers The presence of interpersonal, accessibility-related, logistical, or other types of barriers that interfere with communications with supervisors or other groups
  6. Procedures The existence, use, and effectiveness of formally defined procedures outlining scope, methods, or other project concerns
Reference: (RS105-1)

3 : Compass Survey Tool Used to Assess Communication

The Compass tool contains surveys for project management, engineering, and construction. The tool consists of four main sections: (RS105-1, pp. 13-14)

  • Introduction and User’s Guide
  • Project Information and Response
  • Communication Effectiveness Questions
  • Reports Section
The tool allows the user to survey team members and assess overall communications effectiveness, the six communication catergories, and benchmarks from 72 CII projects. A trend analysis feature is also included to compare and monitor results from multiple assessments over the course of a project.
Reference: (RS105-1)

4 : Compass Survey Tool Pinpoints Communication Issues

A Compass tool report shows an overall communication effectiveness score for the entire project as well as for each stakeholder. It also provides scores in each of the six communication areas, and rates the stakeholders in these categories as well. This helps pinpoint where communication issues may be occurring. (RS105-1, p. 15)
Reference: (RS105-1)

5 : Benefits

Project teams can realize significant benefits by using the Compass diagnostic tool. Most importantly, project communications effectiveness can now be both measured and monitored, and problem areas can be identified. This is the critical first step necessary in improving project team communications. (RS105-1, p. 17)

Reference: (RS105-1)

6 : Implementation Tool #1

IR105-2, Compass Communications Project Assessment Tool

Compass tool is designed to enable project managers to assess project team communications during the execution phases of EPC projects. The tool targets three project groups: project management, engineering, and construction.
Reference: (IR105-2)

Key Performance Indicators

Improved cost, Improved schedule, Improved quality (reduced errors & omissions), Improved safety

Research Publications

Compass: An Assessment Tool for Improving Project Team Communications, Version 2.1 - RS105-1

Publication Date: 12/2011 Type: Research Summary Pages: 19 Status: Supporting Product

Compass: Communications Project Assessment Tool, Version 2.1 - IR105-2

Publication Date: 12/2011 Type: Implementation Resource Pages: 0 Status: Tool

An Assessment Tool for Improving Team Communications - RR105-11

Publication Date: 01/1997 Type: Research Report Pages: 218 Status: Reference