Effective project communications (3)

Posted on: October 7th, 2013 by Jim

As mentioned in my last post, PMI has recognized that a significant number of projects fail due to poor communications. So knowing that, our goal on the project is to prevent bad communications as much as possible, thereby reducing risk to the project. How can we do that? I will suggest a few things:

-Communications management plan: per PMI this is a “component of the project management plan that describes how project communications will be planned, structured, monitored, and controlled.” So right off the bat, while planning, you make it clear to the team that good communications is vital and that you will have a plan governing it. What I like to do at project kickoff is have a brief “What is project management” meeting. So I set expectations about team meetings, what input I will need, perhaps demonstrate the scheduler and how I update it. I literally had a student last week who used PowerPoint for running a project and did not know what the word “schedule” meant. So while we’re all together learning the same language, let’s all understand the communications management plan and how it governs communications.

This is ideally a table and at a minimum it should address who, what, why, how, when. So we will communicate status to the sponsor in person via PowerPoint bi-weekly. Likewise we will communicate meeting minutes/action items to the project team via email weekly. So what you’re doing is setting expectations. People will need to know and understand how you expect them to communicate. Set ground rules. Let them know that their not answering does not mean ‘no’. Their not answering by X means they’ve bought in to what you suggested in the email.

Be open about communications. If you come in with a plan to, say, use email and the team prefers to use a Wiki or even, for certain things, Twitter, don’t fight it. Try it out and see if it works. Different generations communicate in different ways. Be creative. Also be sure the plan includes an escalation path for those who do not communicate back.

Last word. Does everybody have to play by this plan? What if someone senior to you says, “If you want me don’t send an email, call me.” I say do it. Don’t publicize that but circumvent the plan in certain cases if you have to. Standing on ceremony won’t get the job done.

Next: Improving your own communications.

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