Controlling Your Project’s Message

It has been estimated that 90% of a project manager’s time is spent communicating.  Think about all of the daily emails, instant messaging, project meetings and one on one conversation that you have about your projects.  Now consider all the recipients of your communication.  They’re also providing updates and details about your project to their managers and stakeholders.  All of that writing and talking can affect your project’s success or failure in a big way.  As a project manager, you need to do everything that you can to control your project’s message. 

Take charge of how your project is perceived.  Develop a written and approved communications management plan at the beginning of your project or project phase.  Otherwise, you’ll find yourself spending most of your time chasing misconceptions and putting out fires.  Developing a written approved plan at the start will help you and your project stakeholders confirm:

  • What information stakeholders need to know
  • Who needs to know the information
  • When stakeholders should be informed
  • How stakeholders will get/receive their information

Your project’s complexity will determine how formal your plan should be.  Use the communications channel formula N (N-1)/2, where N equals the number of project team participants, to help you to determine your project’s complexity.  A small initiative might only call for you to document a plan to provide a bi-weekly status email, organize a weekly project team meeting, and conduct and a monthly project sponsor update.  However, a large complex project will probably require a more formal approach.

Brainstorm with your project team before you go for formal approval.  Think about the who, what, where, when, why and how’s of your plan.   Consider how you are going to manage communications among your project stakeholders.   Do you need to create a project dashboard?  What information should you distribute to your immediate project team members?   Are you going to provide formal presentations to your project sponsor(s)?  How frequently will you hold project meetings?  Who will be required v.s. optional meeting attendees?  What will be discussed at each meeting?  Who needs to approve the communication plan?   These are just a few questions.  I’m sure you can think of more!

Is developing a written communications plan and getting it approved an unnecessary task?  No.  Creating a communications plan is vital.  Your project stakeholders need and deserve to know what’s going on.  They’ll find out from you, or someone else.  In the worst case scenario, that someone else could communicate inaccurate information that could wreck havoc on your project.  Spend the time upfront.  You’ll thank yourself many times over.  Then, when you’re in the heat of project execution, you’re implementing your communication plan, not coming up with a new one!  Upcoming topic…

Communications Management – How complex is your project?

 - ProjectWalker

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