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III: Communication and leadership in monitoring and evaluation

Aspects of communication in monitoring and evaluation


Communication is recognized as critical in the entire life cycle of project implementation. While it is imperative to communicate effectively among the various stakeholders such as the architect, quantity surveyor, engineers, donors and clients during monitoring and evaluation (M&E), communication is less discussed in the M&E literature. What the architect is communicating through his designs must be well and clearly understood and translated to ensure smooth implementation of M&E. Undoubtedly, extant literature has revealed communication as a major setback in the monitoring and evaluation of projects. This chapter argues that effective communication is necessary for effective M&E implementation. Also, communication should be viewed as a multi-way activity involving all project factors in the M&E chain and not the originator and implementers (sender and receiver) and, hence, information must be communicated devoid of ambiguities as well as doubts in expectations. Finally, communication must be targeted to ensure relevant information is delivered timely and to the right audience.


It is universally perceived that all living things, i.e. plants, animals or human beings, communicate through either sound, gestures, speech or movement to express their feelings, problems or understanding of the environment (Goulden, 1992; Jablin & Sias, 2001), hence, the importance of communication in every endeavor of life. In the construction project setting, communication has also been conceptualized variedly (see Dainty, Moore & Murray, 2006; Emmitt and Gorse, 2007; Hoezen et al., 2010; Liu, 2009; Sonnenwald, 1996; Thomas et al. 1998, 1999; Xie et al., 2010). Also, in construction, the M&E process largely requires the sharing of large volumes of information and documents to ensure processes and tasks are accomplished (Cui et al., 2018; Kwofie, Aigbavboa & Thwala, 2019). Characteristic of a typical construction setting where teamwork is essential amongst project stakeholders, communication can be a valuable tool to influence personal, teams and organizational relationships (Pietroforte, 1997; Popple and Towndrow, 1994). In this chapter, a key variable to ensure effective

M&E, i.e. an understanding of the concept of communication in an M&E setting as well as the main attributes of the communication process are theoretically placed in perspective.

Understanding monitoring and evaluation communication

Communication is necessary in all fields of practice, including the construction industry where M&E of projects takes place throughout the life of the project -even after completion. M&E is a collaborative activity that relies on the effective interaction between all project stakeholders. Project M&E brings together all forms of stakeholders to interact to accomplish and achieve the desired outcome of projects. This makes effective communication non-negotiable in the implementation of M&E as it creates an opportunity for interaction between stakeholders. Project successes as well as challenges need to be communicated for solutions to be attained. Information regarding progress, quality and cost are of great interest to international donors and needs to be communicated. Stakeholders interact to share meaning for greater understanding (Otter & Emmitt, 2008) of the contract and to effectively implement projects at a reasonable cost and time without compromising on quality. Overall, effective communication among project stakeholders is necessary for project success (Lohiya, 2010). Hence, the need to ensure effective communication ensues in the M&E process.

To best understand what communication is, it is imperative to deliberate the meaning of communication. Owing to the multi-dimensional and nebulous nature of the word “communication”, it is difficult to have a generalized definition of communication (Dainty et al., 2006). However, a plethora of definitions exists from different authors with different perspectives which attribute different meanings to different people in different situations. First of all, communication is discussed as a process owing to its dynamic nature and the sharing of ideas, goals and opinions (Norouzi, Shabak, Embi & Khan, 2015). It is also described in terms of its function and behavior and, finally, as an interface.

As early as 1953, Hovland, Janis and Kelley (1953) described communication as a process whereby people sent a stimulus purposely to change or to affect the behavior of other people. Metaphorically, Dainty et al. (2006) describe communication as a pipeline through which information is sent to a receiver by a sender. Similarly, communication is the process which explains who says what, through which medium or channel, to whom the information is sent and with what effect (Lasswell, 1948). It is also a process of divulging knowledge from one person to another. In more recent studies, there is evidence of the evolution of the understanding of communication. The definition of communication has become more complex to help address the growing complexity of human activities. Communication has been defined more recently by Perumal and Abu Bakar (2011) as a process of encoding information by a sender and sending the same through a channel to be decoded by the receiver and providing feedback subsequently. It is also the exchange of information or data between a sender and a receiver through writing, speech or signs and the interpretation of the meaning

Aspects of communication in monitoring 89 between the parties involved in the process (Adler, 2003; Norouzi et al., 2015; Perumal et al., 2011). Communication is further broken down into content and relationship; content describes the information transmitted whereas the relationship talks about the dynamics between persons involved in the communication (Corcoran, 2007). This separation helps manage the content being transferred in the communication process and also the relationship between the sender and the receiver being well established (Corcoran, 2007).

Secondly, communication has been defined in relation to functions and behaviors (Norouzi et al., 2015). Pietroforte (1997) pointed out that the role of communication is to encourage the accomplishment of shared or joint objectives. It is therefore an avenue to influencing the relationship between parties to achieve shared objectives. Otter and Emmitt (2008) further define communication as human behaviour that facilitates the sharing of meaning and that takes place in a social context. This social relationship is observed as a major characteristic of every communication process where assumptions and expectations of parties can be explored and even explained (Norouzi et al., 2015).

Finally, communication can be explained as an interface. The evolution of communication models over the years has produced sophisticated and computer-mediated communication interfaces such as telephones, emails, fax and video conferencing for communicating amongst parties. In the M&.E practice, however, automated cameras, geographical information systems, remote-sensing technologies and global positioning systems have evolved to enhance communication. The use of the right media guarantees effective communication (Ean, 2011)

Communication is therefore perceived as a twin process (two-way process), function or interface for information transfer between people. The major ingredients in every communication system are the presence of a sender of the information, a medium through which information is transmitted, a receiver and a feedback mechanism (Al-Fedaghi, Alsaqa &. Fadel, 2009). Encoding and decoding of the information are very critical for sustaining meaning throughout the communication process. Information may include sending verbal or non-verbal messages and receiving feedback as a response. Communication is pervasive in the construction industry and its contribution to effective M&E cannot be overemphasized. Within the M&.E context, this could be to convey instructions to influence the behavior and performance of other stakeholders such as the contractor or may involve the exchange of or request for information among clients, consultants and donor agencies.

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