Understanding and managing multiple facets of any project is vital to it flourishing. You have employees, budgets, timelines, vendors, scopes, government regulations, risks and much more to juggle. One area of project management has the power to make or break it’s success, and that’s communications.
We’ve all seen projects run off the rails. The stakeholders wanted A. The project was communicated as B. Too late in the game we find out what would’ve worked the best for them is C. Now the budget is gone, the deadline is today and no one is happy. Luckily, we can avoid these situations with a well thought out communications plan.
You owe it to your team and to your stakeholders to create a communications infrastructure. So, what do you do? Here’s a high-level approach.
Identify Your Stakeholders
A stakeholder is anyone with interest in your project. This is more than just making a list; this is identifying those people, their needs, their perceptions and their influence on a project. Not all stakeholders should be treated equally. Some have more power whereas others might have more impact to your project. You will need to identify the positive and negative impact each can have on your project and later on you will plan how to mitigate the negative and maximize those with positive contributions.
Develop a Plan
Here you identify who should receive project communications, what communications they should receive, how they should receive them, and how often they should receive them. You will outline who will initiate updates and the frequency of updates. Here you can define roles and responsibility so everyone doesn’t have to communicate with everyone else – creating a large number of communication channels and unneeded confusion.
Share Your Plan
The purpose of distributing info is keep everyone informed on the plan and progress of your project. It’s the execution phase of what you just planned above using the channels you cited in your plan.
Much like the process above, this is continued execution of your plan with a focus on ensuring the stakeholders are being managed appropriately. This is here to identify issues and resolve them quickly and proactively. If everyone is on the same page throughout the process, you have a greater chance of success.
Report Your Performance
Here, you need to monitor and control the project and produce results that are sharable to the team and stakeholders. This shows your progress and contains the whole story of your project – not just the good stuff. The reports can take your work and highlight areas that need work, identify trends, show small deviations off plan and ultimately can be used as a deliverable to the stakeholders so they are well aware of the project’s status.
Finally, it’s worth noting that communications can fluctuate from informal to formal and are important to manage whether they are water cooler communications, full-on, grandiose presentations or discussions with high level players. You need to tailor your communications to your audience. And always make sure the data you provide is timely, accurate and truthful.