Project Management Series: Interactive vs Push vs Pull Communication

Interactive vs Push vs Pull Communication

Avantika Monnappa

Last updated July 27, 2017


Being a good communicator is an attribute that invariably finds its way onto every list of highly desirable qualities for any project manager, worldwide. And with good reason.

Communication plays a critically important role in project management. If you do not communicate with your team, they will not know what they are supposed to do, and when. And, in turn, if you do not know what your team is doing, you will not be able to monitor the progress of your project, which will then lead to failure of the project.

You need to be able to maintain open and accurate communication channels with all levels of a project, including project members and stakeholders starting from the bottom, all the way to the top. Communicating insufficient and unclear information can lead to faulty assumptions and poor quality of work, while overloading a stakeholder with information can lead to them shutting you off from any more.

Communication that is interactive and relies on either nonverbal, verbal, written, contextual, or subjective components, to convey a message and to rely on the same to attain feedback is effective communication.

The PMBOK® Guide identifies 3 types of communication:

1. Interactive Communication
2. Push Communication
3. Pull Communication

Interactive Communication

Interactive Communication’ is a self-explanatory term. Like the name suggests, it is a multidirectional form of communication. When you require an immediate response, and when the information you are communicating is sensitive with the possibility of being misinterpreted, you turn to interactive communication. It involves one or more people exchanging thoughts and ideas. Participants respond in real time.

Project Managers prefer Interactive Communication. Performed over media, like video conferences, phones, meetings, etc., this form of communication is important because it enables managers to catch glimpses of face expressions and body language of the stakeholders.

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To understand this concept better, consider an example. Say you need to have a meeting with the stakeholders about the progress of a project, or you have a glitch in the project, interactive communication would be a preferred form than using mails to convey messages and having them respond by email. Rather than being unsure of what is happening, you could rather call for a meeting or a video conference and convey the problem to them and then take in inputs.

Push Communication

This kind of communication is from sender to receiver. This is preferable when you give out information but are not looking for an immediate response or if the matter you are trying to convey is not urgent or sensitive either. However, as soon as the recipient is aware of this message they will need to react to it.

Push communication involves: Memos, Letters, Emails, Reports, Faxes, etc. It is not face-to-face but mainly through some written medium. The one disadvantage of this type of communication is that the sender can only identify that the message has been successfully sent. He will not know when or if the recipient has received it and understood the message trying to be communicated.

Take, for example, you have a technical issue that demands immediate attention, and you alert the Tech department of your company to fix it. You send the Tech guy a mail. He isn't available for the day and is therefore not able to receive and attend to your mail. You only know that the mail you wrote has been successfully sent. You do not know if he has received it or not. You will only know that he has when he comes and fixes our problem that will be the next day.

Pull Communication

No, it does not mean pulling in a reader to read your message. Instead, Pull Communication is all about providing members, the access to common information. The receiver, however, must recover this information. This method is used for a large audience who require access to information for their use.

When your communication is informational, make use of this kind of information. If a receiver does not read this message that you put up, it will in no way affect the project. Since information will be accessed only when the need arises, pull communication is known to be the most appropriate kind of communication. Methods of
Pull communication include posting information on websites, knowledge repositories, bulletin boards, etc.

A sample-case scenario would be when you have enrolled for a Project Management course in Simplilearn and need access to more inputs on your course, and you begin to search for relevant information from the Articles/Ebooks that is available on the training provider’s site itself.

Sample Questions

Here are some Sample Questions of PMP® certification exam taken from ‘Cornelius Fichtner's Blog' and the ‘PMP® prep exam' site that may be of some use to you.

1. What term describes information that is sent to recipients at their request via Web sites, bulletin boards, eLearning, knowledge repositories like blogs and other means?
a.Push communications
b.Pull communications
c.Interactive communications
d.Customer communications
2. Communication between two or more parties performing multi-directional exchange of information is called ______.
a.Interactive communication
b.Pull communication
c.Push communication
d.Multi-directional communication
3. You need to resolve a workplace conflict involving several members of your project team.  Which communication technique is best suited for this?
a.Pull Communication
c.Interactive Communication
d.Push Communication
For your better understanding, here is a table which will make things easier.

  Interactive Communication Push Communication Pull Communication
Definition – What it is. Involves one or more people exchanging thoughts and ideas and responding in real time. Sender to receiver type communication – usually some barrier in between Providing information that is accessible to all members – but they must retrieve this information.
Nature of Communication Sensitive and urgent Casual – not so important Informational purpose - casual
Required Action Immediate response required Immediate action not required but once recipient notices message must take some action No action required
Media to communicate Video conferences, phones, meetings, etc. Memos, Letters, Emails, Reports, Faxes, etc. websites, knowledge repositories, bulletin boards, etc.
Example An important meeting with stakeholders over a videoconference Sending a mail to the tech team to fix a problem but not receiving an immediate response. Browsing through websites for information.

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PMP and PMBOK are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc. 

About the Author

A project management and digital marketing knowledge manager, Avantika’s area of interest is project design and analysis for digital marketing, data science, and analytics companies. With a degree in journalism, she also covers the latest trends in the industry, and is a passionate writer.


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