Planning Project Communications
Having a well-thought-out and documented plan at the beginning of a project is important. The plan can often mean the difference between success and failure. As a project manager, you need to care about project communication. Too often project managers (PMs) approach their projects without planning communications. They may focus all their efforts on issuing status reports. Status reports are important. Unfortunately, all they do is describe where your project currently stands. Status reports don’t address the communication needs of the project from beginning to end. Given how crucial communication is to the project and project team, a failure to plan can lead to misunderstandings, rework, and other problems.
Planning communication on the project doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it does require some thought. You need to consider all the exchanges of information required of you and everyone involved on the project. Doing so will keep the project deadline on track. A plan can help you prepare for any obstacles the project encounters along the way. Such planning will guide you and the team in creating information that is clear and understandable. It will help you reach the right people and allow stakeholders to act when necessary. Here are six ways to consider as you plan your project.
Six Communication Planning Tips
- Think How to Communicate: Think through the different types and methods available. Make sure you choose the best approach for each item that needs to be communicated. Information can be communicated in different ways—formally or informally, written or verbal—and through a variety of methods. It’s important to consider what approach to use for the different information exchange needs of the project.
- Analyze Stakeholders’ Communication Requirement: Keep in mind the phrase “to each their own.” Ask your stakeholders how they prefer to give and receive information. Try to follow their preferences within reason. As the PM, you will likely need to communicate to individuals on your team using several different methods. Although this may mean extra work, it can be worth the effort if it prevents problems. Miscommunication can be avoided by asking a simple question like, “How would you like me to pass this information to you?”
- Consider the Company Culture and Existing Systems: You also need to take the company’s culture and expectations into consideration when planning project communications. If people in the organization are resistant to technology, for example, that will impact your thinking about what types of tools or software to include on the project. Similarly, the company may already have existing systems and programs in place. You’ll want to make use of for communicating.
- Refer to Lessons Learned from Past Projects: There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Instead, draw on existing procedures, issues, and lessons learned from past projects. Assessments of what has and has not worked in the past can be a great help for planning.
- Take Advantage of Available Technology: Modern collaboration tools such as Trello and others can help keep project communication and the team organized. Such tools help the team track progress on deliverables. They allow the team to communicate about the schedule and other project concerns. These might document deadlines, ownership of tasks, updates, and the time required to complete tasks.
- Follow the Plan: Make sure everyone knows about the plan and how important it is to the project. Then, follow the plan in your own approach. Constantly refer the team back to the plan until the habit becomes ingrained.
RMC is Here to Help
You can’t plan for everything, and many unique situations will surface throughout your projects that you may not have anticipated. But planning and documenting in advance how you’ll communicate on a project—including how you’ll communicate around these unexpected situations—will help your projects run more smoothly. Whether you are a new or experienced project manager, project communications can be a struggle. If these tips aren’t enough, check out RMC’s Project Communication and Stakeholder Engagement eLearning course.