Kirsti Lindfors
Apr 10, 2012
Posted in category: 2012 Member Articles

Does your project have a communications plan?

Are you working in an open office? How many times have you thought that everyone around you knows exactly what you’re doing and what the status of your project is and then discover in a conversation, that in fact the people sitting around you have absolutely no clue? The same applies to projects. Way too often we assume that everyone knows what’s going on, when the truth is there’s never enough communication in a project and you can never over-communicate!

The experience I’ve accumulated over the – too many to admit – years as a project manager have boiled down to a couple of observations and rules of thumb I follow. Some of the observations include:

  • People are very busy in their work and are bombarded with information all the time. Hence, people read emails at a glance and often do not feel they have the time to open attachments or follow links.
  • The times of life-long employment are gone and people are in general apprehensive about bigger changes in their work place.
  • Most organizations must rely on electronic communications. However, computer literacy does not correlate with age, gender, education or job title.

The rules of thumb that I always apply are:

  • Create a project intranet site, where you maintain up to date information on the project. This information should include an overall project description and project schedule. On the site you should explain why this project is done, what it means to the organization and to the individuals and what are the benefits to everyone once the project is completed. You should also provide a Questions and Answers page where you can answer the worries and concerns people voice so that also those who do not dare speak will receive the messages.
  • It is always good to give a project a name. I’ve also found that a logo makes a project more real and easier for people to approach the project team.
  • Everything where you need personal involvement from the people in the organization – where you need people to take action – is best sent as an email. An email should contain only one message or action to take. The entire message should be visible as the email is opened, without the need to scroll. You will probably need to include an attachment or a link. If you want the people to open the attachment or follow the link you need to tell them why they cannot live without it.

I’ve seen a change in the past years from companies relying on their service providers’ project management methods to developing their own methods and requiring their service providers to use them. Although the project management standards such as PMI or Prince 2 teach project communications and offer ready templates for it, I’ve been surprised to see that a lot of companies’ own project management methods don’t even mention project communications. I’ve even worked for a customer where the communications department said only they do communications in the company and a project is not even allowed to have a communications plan. My experiences, however, shows that communications has a direct correlation to user satisfaction, so I say: Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!

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