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Communication through non-communication

Unspoken Signals: Nonverbal communication

Frankly, there are many communication models. But let’s be honest: when it comes down to it, we don’t want to actively engage in understanding the benefits of communication – and thereby the success of a project, right?

Proper communication only seems important at the beginning of a project

Before the start of a project, there are usually clear statements like:

“We need a ‘Project Communication Team’ during the project.”


“That communication is essential for project success, to leverage the synergies of individual sub-projects and ensure their inclusion, is common knowledge by now!”

But what often follows during the course of the project?


Statements like:


“We need to cut down the project budget a bit, so we’ll handle the project communication ourselves from now on. We’ll manage it; the budget takes priority.”

The fundamental aim of this article is to highlight that communication does not naturally progress in the desired direction, particularly in the realm of project management. Relying solely on luck to achieve successful project communication would be a risky decision. Instead, the key message conveyed here is the necessity of proactive efforts and deliberate strategies to cultivate effective communication, ultimately leading to project success.

Communication in square

One of the most widely known aspects of communication is the Communication Square (Four-sides model) by Friedemann Schulz von Thun. It is clear that both the sender and the receiver play a significant role in the quality of communication. Achieving perfectly clear communication is almost never the case in reality. Instead, it is more realistic to work towards this ideal through intentional, clear, and well-structured communication, which cannot be achieved through careless communication.

It’s time to remind ourselves of the Four-sides model. Every statement made contains, whether we want it or not, four messages:

  • A factual information: What is being said? Numbers, data, facts!
  • A self-disclosure: Reveals the personality and sometimes even the emotions of the message sender. Caution: It often happens unconsciously!
  • A relational reference: Says something about the relationship between the sender and the receiver. This includes expressions of appreciation, respect, but also dislike and distance. Both the choice of words and body language speak volumes here.
  • An appeal: My intention declaration, as I either want to call for action or perhaps encourage trust and even urge restraint. In essence, every communication contains these four elements, whether we are aware of them or not.


Regrettably, we must acknowledge that both professionally and personally, we often cannot communicate without judgments and always convey information that we might not have intended to deliver in that particular way.

But what role does communication play in the project business?

And what approaches are there to portray the most realistic picture of the current situation? The significance of regular and transparent project communication is often underestimated – yet it is a crucial factor for success! Critical to successful project communication is that it is:

  • regular,
  • timely,
  • honest,
  • proactive,
  • and interactive.

The initial situation before the start of a project naturally plays a crucial role. Besides the corporate culture, it reveals the fundamental structures in project management and the significance attributed to them. But how do you best determine the initial situation, i.e., the current state in the company?

Recording the current state

In principle, you know your company better than any consultant who comes from outside. However, this internal knowledge also presents the most significant communication obstacle, as you, being part of the system (your company), may never be as objective as an external partner joining the company.

As your partner, PIKON has integrated “Snapshot Interviews” into the project initiation process, leveraging over twenty years of project management experience. This allows an objective overview before the actual operational project starts:

360 degrees communication scheme

These Snapshot Interviews provide the most neutral and comprehensive picture across all hierarchical levels, functional areas, and company locations.

The information gathered from the interviewees is treated with strict confidentiality and only used in an anonymized form for further processing within the project. At the end of the interview phase, PIKON creates a final document containing all the relevant information obtained from the interviews for the project’s further progress. Based on the findings, PIKON develops a proposal with areas of action and potential solutions.

You cannot not communicate!

Returning to the original statement, ‘One cannot not communicate,’ and therefore, to the question:

What does one actually communicate when not communicating?

The fundamental rule is: Nothing remains hidden from the employees! After all, it’s evident when external women and men arrive daily in taxis. A subtle hint is given by the stiff trouser suits and the ever-popular rolling suitcases, which symbolize the pinnacle of NON-communication. As one can gather from the office grapevine, these are consultants who will now be attending regular meetings with the entire C-Level management. The Works Council, it is said, has not been informed about this yet. Numerous speculations and rumors about upcoming projects, significant changes, and heads rolling now adorn the daily work routine. Are these absurd daydreams that you haven’t communicated in this way?

The absence of communication is already communication

So, now you understand the consequences that can result from your communication through NON-communication?

The act of not communicating is still a form of communication – and communication is not a one-time action but rather a complex process that thrives on the interplay between communicators. They interact with each other, making communication the most crucial bond in interpersonal relationships. Therefore, opt for supportive and encouraging communication, as defensive reactions in change management are the norm. If you manage to move forward with empathy and unwavering determination and face the negative aspects of your project phases openly, nothing will stand in the way of your project’s success.

Don’t solely rely on luck that communication will somehow work out. Seek professional support and leverage the expertise of PIKON. We are here to assist you.

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About the author
Corina Leidinger
Corina Leidinger
Corina Leidinger is a member of the Organisational Development team. She brings her personal experience from a US corporation and her know-how in change and project management to our clients with great commitment.

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