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Communication with context allows a project manager to focus their audience’s attention on what they are trying to convey.

In this video clip, Stu McClung, who is currently the NASA Orion test lead, discusses why providing enough background and context when communicating information and asking questions is an important habit to practice.

Video key learning points:

  1. 1.

    A project manager should take care to put context around any questions or communications with their team. Explaining why they are asking a question will elicit the response they want from the team.

  2. 2.

    A project manager communicating to their management should use context to make sure busy managers can easily focus on what is being explained.

  3. 3.

    Too much irrelevant information can slow down or confuse a team. The entire project team doesn’t need to know everything, they just need to know what is needed to complete their specific jobs. All hands meetings are good to occasionally give the big picture, but all project information shouldn’t be shared with the entire team all of the time. As an example, a parachute team needs to focus on the parachutes and the systems they might interact with, but they don’t need to know what is going on with all other parts of the project that aren’t relevant to their job.

  4. 4.

    Leaders should pay attention to their audience and what the audience needs to know. The message should be tailored by the project manager according to who they are communicating with and consider the current phase the project is in.

  5. 5.

    Project managers can develop the skill to communicate through both formal education and on the job learning experience.


Related Resources

APPEL KS Podcast: Charting New Horizons: Inside NASA’S Orion Mission

APPEL KS Courses: Building and Leading NASA Teams

APPEL KS Communication Courses

Critical Knowledge inSight: Communication Skills for Engineers

APPEL Knowledge Inventory Communication Videos

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