Rethinking Communication


Project management in the time of Covid


By Dr. Lynda Bourne

Melbourne, Australia

In July 2022, the federal Department of Health announced that Australia had reached the milestone of 10 000 COVID deaths; most of those who have died were over 65. Australia’s population is almost 26 million, so these numbers are significant. At the time of writing (August 2022), the health authorities are assuring us that these deaths and hospitalizations appear to be trending downwards. At the same time, they are pleading with us to continue to wear masks when indoors. These messages like many messages circulated throughout the various stages of the pandemic here in Australia have not reached all intended audiences. To many, the messages are confusing or just ignored as not relevant.

This is the fourth paper in the series: PM in the time of COVID, offering ideas for reviewing and reforming the practice of project management, and focused on experiences in Australia but also reflecting on global experiences. The topics of previous papers in this series outlined approaches to uncertainty, governance and leadership, and more adaptable team structures for post-pandemic project work. This paper will focus on what we have now discovered anew about effective communication from experiences of pandemic-era communication: what worked and what didn’t work, with a view to reviewing and revising project and organization communications.

This paper is organized as follows: firstly, a discussion about why effective communication is so important, followed by descriptions of stakeholders and their influence on project and organization success. The second part discusses effective communication as the only tool for engaging stakeholders and adapting project and organization communication to support new team structures and new ways of engaging project and organization stakeholders. The third section will focus on lockdown-era communications: the best and the least effective, and how these learnings can be applied to post-pandemic activities and to rethink approaches to organizational communication.

 The importance of effective communication

Effective communication is a process of sending a message that is received and understood as intended. This means that the message must be crafted to ensure that the intended receiver (or receivers) can interpret the words, meaning and context of the message to enable them to receive relevant information, to feel reassured, or to act on the intention of the message.

We don’t do this very well: not individuals, not organizations, not Governments, not even advertisers. And in times of crisis we are even less effective.

The potential targets of any pandemic-related message are so diverse that a one-size-fits-all or even a one-size-fits-most approach will fail. Governments and health authorities could never get ahead of messaging to advise all parts of the community with essential messages constantly changing, especially in the early days of the pandemic. As health authorities and Governments learned more about the virus the messages to residents needed to change, but this led to confusion and providing more scope from misinformation and the spread of conspiracy theories.


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Editor’s note: This series is by Dr. Lynda Bourne, author of the books Stakeholder Relationship Management: A Maturity Model for Organisational Implementation (2009), Advising Upwards: A Framework for Understanding and Engaging Senior Management Stakeholders (2011) and several others.  She is a globally-recognized expert on project stakeholder engagement, risk management and other PM-related topics. 

How to cite this paper: Bourne, L. (2022). Rethinking Communication: Project Management in the time of Covid, series article, PM World Journal, Vol. XI, Issue IX, September. Available online at https://pmworldlibrary.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/pmwj121-Sep2022-Bourne-Rethinking-communication-pm-in-time-of-covid.pdf

About the Author

Dr. Lynda Bourne

Melbourne, Australia


Lynda Bourne DPM, FACS is a senior management consultant, professional speaker, teacher and an award-winning project manager with 50 years professional industry experience. She has been focussed on the delivery of stakeholder management and other project related consultancy, mentoring and training for clients world-wide.

She has presented at conferences and seminars in South America, Europe, Russia, Asia, New Zealand and Australia to audiences of industry leaders and project managers in the IT, construction, defence and mining industries and has been keynote speaker at meetings and workshops within organisations in the finance and utilities sector.

In 2010 she was engaged as visiting professor at EAN University, Bogota, Colombia, teaching leadership in the Masters of PM Program for five years.

Most recently she was a member of the Faculty of Information Technology, Monash University, lecturing in IT management subjects, in particular, stakeholder management, communication and leadership.

Lynda Bourne has authored the following books:

  • Stakeholder Relationship Management: A Maturity Model for Organisational Implementation, (Gower Publishing Ltd, Aldershot – 2009)
  • Project Relationship Management and the Stakeholder Circle: A guide for developing stakeholder management maturity in organisations (2010)
  • Advising Upwards: A Framework for Understanding and Engaging Senior Management Stakeholders, (Gower Publishing Ltd, Aldershot – 2011)
  • Making projects and programs work: What really matters for achieving successful project and program outcomes (2015)

She can be contacted at lynda.bourne@gmail.com

To view other works by Lynda Bourne, visit her author showcase in the PM World Library at https://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/dr-lynda-bourne/