Why is communication so difficult? Barriers to efficient project communication and how to address them with digital visual planning tools
Examensarbete för masterexamen
Quality and operations management (MPQOM), MSc
The world we live in is in constant change and new technologies are developing faster than ever before. For engineering organizations, this implies challenges, and the need for digitalization and efficient development projects becomes increasingly important. As a part of conducting successful development projects, project communication has been shown to play a vital role. Therefore, this study has on behalf of Volvo Group, aimed to uncover the barriers to efficient project communication in engineering organizations, and how to address them. The methodology of digital visual planning was tested through the implementation of a software, to discover whether this could be used to address the barriers and strengthen project communication. In total, three different engineering development projects were studied, projects A and B were at the beginning of implementation of digital visual planning whereas project C had already used the software for several years. Throughout the study, a qualitative research approach was adopted. Here, a combination of literature review, qualitative interviews, observations, and demonstrations have been conducted in all three projects. In total, 27 barriers that inhibit efficient project communication could be discovered. Furthermore, it was found that eight of these barriers were addressable by using digital visual planning, enabled by the software that was studied. The implementation of digital visual planning led to several benefits, including the possibility to minimize the unclarity in responsibilities and minimize ambiguity in communication content by ensuring a high level of communication transparency. Furthermore, the software helped to structure meetings, and thereby reduced excessive time spent on meetings and associated administrative work. In addition, since the software does not require high technological skills to use and is easy to access, it lowers the threshold for implementation and actual usage. However, some challenges and drawbacks could be identified as well. If not fully integrating the software, there is a risk that the software will become an addition to current systems which leads to more administration and few benefits. In addition, the usage of digital tools for collaboration was shown to increase the distance between people and risk leading to less communication if not managed well. To make the implementation of digital visual planning persistent, an important conclusion was the need to consider change management aspects. The software to be implemented also needs to be adapted to the specific project. Visualizations were considered to benefit all types of projects. However, for well-structured projects following a Stage-Gate model, the visual planning method was considered suitable whereas, for agile projects, Kanban boards are better.
visual planning, digital visual planning, project communication, project management, digitalization, visualization, lean product development.